Regain control of video evidence

The Toronto Police Service integrated a video evidence management system


"Anything that can be digitized can be managed within the MediaSolv application," he adds. This capability allows the system to manage the disparate set of evidentiary assets in one system. In a quick picture of the sheer number of differences of collected digital evidence, Weaver mentions that agencies might be managing one system managing interrogation or custodial interview room video, another for in-car video, on-officer video, ECD video, their own building surveillance and commercial surveillance - and many of them might be in different file formats.

"The problem with that is that all of them might have proprietary software," says Sandeman. He explains it's not as simple as burning a DVD of the collected files and uploading them onto the system, because the software may require a specific reader to view/play the file. In these cases, Sandeman says, VSU must transcode the video to a format the system can use. The trick here is to make sure video services has all the necessary tools to transcode the majority if not all the possible software collected video may arrive with.

Implementation

As previously explained, MediaSolv's integration into the TPS consisted of combining four legacy systems. This allowed the solution to enable a single sign-in process. The company also developed multiple interfaces for some other legacy systems as well. 

Throughout the project, Sandeman met the chair of an executive steering committee of command officers on a weekly basis - meeting with the entire committee once a month. This gave the project a business process garnering current status and direction. 

In addition, TPS also created a user group of field officers to examine processes and any GUI (graphical user interfaces) pages asking their opinion, improvements, figuring if it was going to work in the real world or not and how files may be managed. 

"Even during the rollout, we'd get feedback from more officers saying 'can't we have this,' 'can't we have that;' you have to be careful to some extent ... everybody's got their own likes and wants. You have to draw a benchmark and a base line of what's good for the business practice for the organization," says Sandeman.

Proof of concept

For a soft launch, Toronto's Video Service's DVAMS faze 2 rolled out carefully and strategically December 2009 with a single unit. Then in February and every two weeks after TPS entered another unit into the system. Currently, TPS has integrated three of its divisions, traffic services, homicides, sex crimes and fraud departments. The three divisions also serve as regional breath testing centers. According to Sandeman, from January 1, 2010, to April 30, 2010, TPS has recorded over 9, 500 assets on DVAMS 2. "And that's just in five locations in a period of four months, we have 17 divisions throughout the city," he adds.

The system begins at recording an event with the latest digital/analog cameras. Sandeman explains they did not utilize IP cameras attached to the network if fear if the network ever went down, the cameras would be useless. The cameras are connected to a digital amplifier and split: one to an encoder, the other to a DVD recorder - the encoder converts the digital video onto the network. 

"So in the event that the network goes down, the officer has a DVD recorder right beside ... the last thing you want is someone to admit to a homicide or a sex crime and the technology fails at the most crucial time. We needed a redundant quick back up," says Sandeman.

Further, the network's primary encoder is backed-up by a secondary encoder. Although the system is reliant on DVAMS, that system is reliant on the TPS Criminal Information System. If that fails, DVAMS is designed to recognize it is down and switch to a manual mode forcing officers to key-in information. Later, when restored, the system has been designed to validate it and automatically 
update changes.

That's just the back-end of the system. The front end (user) begins with the single log-in at a video evidence touchscreen (VET). TPS developed touchscreen kiosks, much like ticket kiosks at the airport, for database access. Authorized user actions are logged for date, time, badge number, etc. - data stored as metadata for the requested video file. The officer touches an on-screen button based on required action, booking, transfer in/out, release, or held in custody for example with each action/choice logged.

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