"When they wear it right in front of them in the V of their shirt and center mass, they don't need to view the LCD screen at all because after a little bit of training they will know exactly what they are picking up on video," Marshall adds. "It really does become second nature."Managing image files
Recorded video is stored in the system's 1 gig of memory, which can later be downloaded like a digital camera via USB cable into an agency's computer system, where files can be burned onto a CD for storage. The Spanish Fork-based company provides software to enhance and expedite this process.
The software reads a serial number off the VIDMIC while it's connected to the computer, and automatically associates it with a specific officer. It then allows administrators to assign the footage to different fields or punch in a case number. Later when it's necessary to retrieve video or audio recordings, or still images, users can simply type in the case number to access every single file captured at the scene. This way if four officers arrive on a scene and record video footage, a supervisor can later view all of these recordings by keying in a single case number.
This software simplifies chain of custody issues by preventing officers from modifying the evidence after it is captured. While officers can view the recordings, only supervisors have the authority to approve the files as evidence. The Grand Forks PD provides an investigations commander, a patrol commander and Liddiard with access to EHS' administrative software. These individuals download video off the VIDMICs at the end of each shift and store it. The software prevents any of these officials from modifying the captured footage or images, says Liddiard.
Later, users can employ this software to cut the video into segments to produce evidence for court; particularly useful in incidents where video might have been recorded for several hours. "You don't want the jury sitting there for that long," Marshall explains. "But let's say there are 20 pertinent segments, which are 30 seconds to a minute long, that you want the jury to watch. The software allows the user to drag and drop those onto a list pane and burn them in sequence for court."The VIDMIC: Priceless
The VIDMIC can cost up to twice as much as a conventional shoulder mic, but in Liddiard's words a department cannot put a price on the benefits this little device brings. While Candid Camera captured video footage for laughs, officers using the VIDMIC are capturing it for some serious reasons.
Video is becoming increasingly important to court cases, especially those alleging officer misconduct. When there is video evidence and someone accuses an officer, Marshall points out that 96.2 percent of the time the officer is exonerated. "Without video, how easy is it for a suspect to say that an officer mistreated them and ruin his entire career?" he asks. "Video evidence is extremely important and it's becoming more important all the time."
Imaging technology also enables officers to document the facts of the case, which is priceless, Liddiard says. Grand Forks officers use the VIDMIC's still camera to photograph evidence found at crime or accident scenes. And at a domestic call, for example, its officers simply use the device to videotape the entire incident as well as the condition of the home, the victim's emotions and the children present for use in court.
"Now our officers have video from the moment they show up at a home to when they leave," he says. "It eliminates the he said/she said problem that is common in domestic violence cases. This evidence is very valuable."
The Grand Forks PD recently developed a VIDMIC policy that is currently being reviewed by its police chief. But until the policy is enacted, which should be soon, Liddiard says the department has a procedural rule that states officers should turn on their VIDMICs during any contact with the public. "It provides great documentation of what they did at a call and what was happening at that call," he says. "With this evidence, juries, judges and defense attorneys can see for themselves what happened. Everything the officer or suspect did during that incident is on videotape, and it's indisputable."