Video technology has become an integral part of most businesses, security systems, and law enforcement strategies. Even everyday citizens can create unique videos, capture news footage, or market their burgeoning ideas or other streaming content instantly through social media. The ease of marketing video content is now becoming so standard that most high-school aged kids can flow through the details and dissemination with ease; on the flip side video production, editing and redacting content while on the fly, have not quite caught up.
Enter cloud-based video editing and the ability to edit video on the go, anywhere, anytime. Editing your video in the cloud may be right for certain applications, such as YouTube or Instagram, but many of these videos don’t require detailed editing software but for instantly shareable videos on social media cloud-based editing may work well for you.
Video Redaction in the Cloud
Video redaction in the cloud, while it is possible, generally does not work as well as the more powerful desktop video redaction software programs. Many high-quality video redaction software programs, such as those used in government services, often have highly sophisticated machine-learning abilities to continually evolve and improve through use. There are several cloud-based video editing programs available to those, mostly used for social media purposes, that include a variety of features like filters, effects and color correction to name a few, but the type of editing required by many professional services are lacking in a cloud-based environment.
Law enforcement has its own unique set of issues regarding video redaction and the importance of getting it right the first time. There is no room for slip-ups, skipped frames, or unsecure transmissions. In many cases there are real lives on the line. Getting the video redaction complete, transferred and stored securely is a must. There can also be legal ramifications on departments for damages if mishandled. Here is a review of some of the cons when dealing with video editing and redaction in the cloud:
- Powerful features: Many of the best quality video redaction software systems are built with machine-learning capabilities to use A.I. driven software to learn and improve through use and the types of applications it is designed for. When going to the cloud, these features can be lost or degraded. With law enforcement, the public’s safety is a first priority and using a downgraded system that could have the remote possibility of dropping or skipping even a single frame, and can allow someone’s identity to be released which could threaten the case, or their very lives.
- Bandwidth: This is a fairly simple negative to figure out. Videos take an outrageously long time to process and to process them in the cloud would take huge amounts of bandwidth. Professional and large video editing firms are only going to pay for so much bandwidth and law enforcement agencies and small departments simply don’t have the resources. Rendering video files in the cloud can be painstakingly slow, there can be additional lag times, as well as time to upload and download the extremely large files. Another issue that arises, is that while all this footage is processing, monopolizing all the bandwidth will inevitably slow down the internet services for the entire office and possibly cause it to crash. Law enforcement’s commitment to public safety clearly cannot afford to set themselves up for a situation that could put lives on the line.
- Video quality: Many of the video editing software that is available for the cloud-based services will use proxy files to adapt to varying internet speeds. Proxy files can also enhance response capabilities to adapt to faster processing in the cloud, but what is left is a downgraded lower quality video file.
- Storage costs: Costs. Costs. Costs. Currently, there are generally no state or federal funds allocated just for video editing, video redaction, or storage costs for law enforcement agencies. Most departments are strapped and watching every area possible to cut costs without risking public safety. Rarely does cloud storage make sense, even for very large video production companies. Since most storage services charge for processing time, which could be infinite when dealing with masses of video files, it just doesn’t make economic sense. Whatever you do, avoid paying for redaction per file or per video length. A lot of vendors are now charging per minute or per hour of video but what do you do when your agency gets a FOIA request for 100 hours of video, will you spend $10,000.00 in redaction fees for just one request? A decent video redaction software will allow you to redact unlimited number of files for the same cost.
- Security: Cloud-based systems do not offer the same amount of security as in-house systems offer and in most jurisdictions are not federally permissible per the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) requirements for security and chain of evidence. Due to these federal parameters, some cloud systems have not even been considered by police departments.
- Dissemination: As with any type of evidence, there must be a clearly defined protocol for how information is handled, viewed, released or edited per chain of evidence rules and regulations. With cloud-based systems, there is a lack of oversight required both at federal and state levels with rules regarding how evidence is handled.
Implementing Body-Cam Protocols
While cloud-based services may become a part of future law enforcement video storage and video redaction, the costs and safety measures combined are just not there as of yet. Video from body cameras take an enormous amount of space. A 30-minute video can take as much as 800 MB of storage space. When you multiply that times each officer, per incident on an entire force, a body camera program can literally break a department’s budget. Body-worn cameras not only produce video footage, but also metadata to track the information identifying the clips as well as the chain of custody for evidentiary procedures. As a department’s Chief Intelligence Officer or CIO, how do you balance department overhead while maintaining evidence in storage which could be called upon in an appeal 10 years later? The Police Executive Research Foundation (PERF) suggests that one way to get a tight control on costs is to have an effective and strict body-worn camera program, implement it, and strictly enforce it. Some suggestions they have made include:
- Getting advice from both legal advisers and local prosecutors.
- Setting up strict evidentiary chain procedures, which will demonstrate control over any tampering of data, copying, or editing.
- Have a secondary auditing system to check for mistakes, foul play, or degradation in data.
- Set up an authorization chain of command.
- Use resources wisely with a safe and dependable back-up system.
- Create a verified system for downloading video and which personnel have permissions for access and editing. If possible, have a separate department or person assigned to this task and control all released material.
- Before any department decision to use a third-party vendor, do a careful analysis and background on their reputation and results.
Meeting CJIS Requirements
Until recently, most computing platforms for video redaction and storage have not met federal CJIS standards. There are now some larger vendors who do meet their compliance standards, but the costs are still something to be weighed and determined by specific department budgets. With some of the new features and storage solutions, many larger departments may actually find cost savings for video storage, especially for long-term storage.
For most large departments, video storage on in-house servers for 5 to 10 years simply overburden their resources and data storage capacities. While one option is to store video for less time, the newer systems offer additional data and storage capacity. The CJIS compliant platforms allow the continued chain of evidence to remain intact by giving each video a digital signature that verifies the videos authenticity, dates of editing and all changes made, and allows for onsite verification by human personnel if it should be later used in a court trial. The system will also generate a log of all audits, time-stamps, identification of personnel handling, and more as a video database to be used in the courtroom should any questions arise.
Evidence management, protocols, and turn around time has become a standard and even court ruling in some areas. This puts pressure on departments to have all evidence, including redacted video evidence available to the court, attorneys and prosecutors in a short window of time. As new body-cam systems are implemented, incorporating the evidence storage in such a way that retrieval can be paired with physical evidence and delivered without delay has become critical for departments.
Implementing an automated system that can sort and retrieve all information, maintain security, and increase workflow and ease for personnel within the department is necessary. Having a system that can track, report and audit all evidence from the moment it is collected till it is delivered helps ensure the public’s safety and provides a cost-saving strategy for all departments. Many departments will find that by doing so, they will save themselves headaches, lost time and money as they progress through technology changes. In the end, we need to continue having body-worn cameras and the evidence they provide as they not only provide testimony on crime, they also keep everyone just a little bit safer and continue to develop trust between the police departments and the community at large.