Law enforcement agencies are often crossed between protecting the community and maintaining the privacy rights of every individual or organization.
A lot of times police agencies are required to release their body worn camera videos in order to demonstrate transparency without trumping on the privacy of the citizens. At this point, it becomes imperative to identify and redact some characteristics like vehicle license plates and the faces of innocent bystanders.
Manual redaction, especially when it has to do with video content, is a daunting and time-consuming task for all law enforcement agencies. Video redaction involves a lot of editing - not compromising other people and location while focusing on the subject(s). Redaction software, therefore, saves law enforcement the human resources of redacting footages, while producing evidentiary images, audio, and video with the legitimacy and relevancy still intact.
As video redaction software continues to gain wide popularity among most law enforcement agencies, there's been a massive influx of different types of redaction software.
While this means there is a lot going on in the industry to make the redaction software better and more efficient, it also implies that you may have a hard time in choosing the best video redaction software from the overwhelming list. And a great number of this software share similar features, which means selecting by features will offer little or no help at all.
So, what then should you look out for when selecting the best video redaction software for your organization or agency?
Here are a few important things you need to consider before making that final decision.
Six Important Features of a Video Redaction Software
When it comes to selecting the perfect audio and video redaction software, you cannot be too careful. While the primary purpose of redaction software is to redact sensitive media files or documents before they go public, bad redaction will affect the transparency and credibility of police agencies.
Overall, there are some important features and capabilities that video redaction software should offer law enforcement agencies. And we have compiled some of them below.
1- The Efficiency of the Video Redaction Software
Evidence is a sensitive part of police work that shouldn’t be flawed by inefficiency and doubt. As a core aspect of police investigations, evidence that has undergone manual editing is more likely to raise eyebrows. And the same thing applies to any evidence that was redacted with questionable redaction software. Without an efficient frame accuracy, a considerable part of the human resources will go to manually handling the video evidence. And that makes the police department look incompetent and unable to handle spontaneous tasks.
The truth is, each frame of video redaction software can be crucial to the success of any investigation. And the error caused by inefficient redaction software can reduce the credibility of the police department, and on a few occasions, the accusation of bias. That is why having automated video redaction software is not just enough; the redaction software must work, pause, and make sure each frame is appropriately redacted.
Also, with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests increasing at a rapid pace, police departments are saddled with several FOIA requests that must be duly granted. It means video redaction software must not only be able to handle each frame without much hang up but must be fast enough to process numerous requests. With a load of evidence coming into the police department, highly-efficient AI-assisted video redaction software is the way to go. It will make the law enforcement and the evidence coming from it credible while boosting its efficiency.
2- Provides Credibility to the Editing Process
When it comes to editing video evidence, there will always be some people doubting the reliability and fairness of the process. But it is essential to take away every doubt from the police work.
There have been few reported cases of police misconduct, which may or may not be very objective, depending on the stance of the narrator. There have also been some cases of civilian hostility against the police in the course of carrying out their duty. So, it is neither here nor there. That’s why people continue to clamor for more transparency and accountability in the operation of police departments.
Despite the opposition against the use of body worn cameras, it is a device that makes both the police and the populace more respectful and accountable for their actions. However, the redaction of video evidence collected is highly critical. It goes beyond the blurring of the faces in the captured videos.
Metadata is a crucial part of video evidence, which is just as relevant as the content of the video itself. It contains vital information like date, time codes, GPS location, and actions of the police officers that are an essential part of the evidence and legal process.
A good video redaction software will also black out every legally protected information from the video’s metadata without sacrificing the credibility and authenticity of the evidence.
3- Automatic License Plate Redaction Feature
Video redaction software is far from being complete without an automatic license plate redaction feature. The collection of license plates is a significant part of the overall police investigation activities. It is one of the quickest ways to solve crimes and catch criminals. But in the course of investigating suspected criminals, the image of the vehicle’s license plate of many law-abiding citizens may have been captured.
Due to the FOIA requests and court rulings, video evidence is getting released. The information in the video may threaten the safety of the public if they reach the hands of the wrong people. And right now, the probability is higher than ever, with the rapid growth in internet usage. It is, therefore, imperative that law enforcement agencies get equipped with robust video redaction software. One vital requirement of the software is automated license plate detection technology that supports automation with body-worn cameras.
Apart from the face and license plate detection, other important functionalities of a robust video redaction should include:
- Automatic computer screen redaction
- Automatic object redaction (any object)
- Audio redaction
- Automatic person redaction
- Multiple blur option
- Document Redaction
4- Processing Different Video Formats
Using varieties of video redaction software is not cost-effective for police departments. That is why a good video redaction software should lessen the burden on the police department's resources and give the department the right balance on budget. Inflexible software will slow down the work of the department; because video evidence can come from different sources and formats.
Collaboration and exchange of data with other departments and law enforcement agencies are essential for police departments. The budget of the police department is limited, like any other government agency. There needs to be the right balance between managing the department resources and getting the job done. It is not financially responsible for the police department to acquire several video redaction software due to compatibility issues.
video redaction software should be flexible enough to support and process a wide range of popular video formats such as AVI, MOV, WMV, AVI, AVCHD, MP4, etc. Also, an effective video redaction software should be compatible with other devices like mobile phones, surveillance systems, dash cameras, etc. Police departments relying on video redaction software that only redact from body camera footage will be inefficient in processing evidence. Any extra money spent on versatile video redaction software is a long-term investment in good police work.
5- Affordability and Cost-effectiveness
Like most government agencies, the budget of the law enforcement agency is often limited. And there needs to be a good balance between managing the department resources and getting the job done. That is why it’s good to consider the mode of operations and cost-effectiveness of a video redaction software before you get one.
A lot of vendors offer their redaction services on a stupendous payment per file or per hour basis. With this method, redacting a video footage that runs into several hours will cost any police agency more money than they can afford and we recommend against it. Redaction software should ease the strain on resources and give the department the right balance on budget by enabling unlimited redaction at no extra cost.
6- Ease of Use
This feature should probably be first, but we decided to list it as the last. Either way, it is an essential part of making the right decisions on settling for video redaction software. It is unrealistic to expect the availability of technical personnel (full time) in all police department especially small department. Any new staff or an intern should get the hang of the software in no time. It is counterproductive for a police department to rely on software that can only be used by trained forensic analysts.
While it might take a bit of a learning curve to get used to any video redaction software interface, the learning curve shouldn’t be too steep. Using an easy to learn and use video redaction software reduces the overall cost of running the department and the workflow.
The usage of body worn cameras (BWC), CCTV, and other means of capturing images, audio, and video have come to stay in law enforcement. With Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and court orders, evidence videos now get to the hands of a third party and from that stage, police departments have no control over the spread of the evidence.
In its duty of protecting the community, the police need to ensure the released pieces of evidence do not compromise the identity and safety of the citizens captured in the video. Hence, video redaction software is a critical tool in protecting the privacy of the general public.
Choosing the right video redaction software that fits the bill is vital for the credibility of the police department and the safety of the citizens. An efficient video redaction takes away all the privacy concerns of the public and makes police work a bit easier. Video redaction gives a common ground to the effective policing and privacy interests of the people. Video redaction is an important step towards a safer community.