Forensic video lab ready for training, ready for duty

The goal of pursuing excellence in a university setting is not uncommon. The University of Indianapolis (UIndy) sets itself apart from others in its partnership with the non-profit Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA...

Fredericks, who is LEVA's principal forensic video instructor and teaches most of the lab lessons, says the ability to retain information is enhanced with the new lab. This was proven with an increased average GPA in the first course.

Multimedia training

Upon returning to their agencies, a significant number of LEVA graduates will immediately make a difference to their investigators, says Jan Garvin, LEVA forensic video training vice president.

"Money spent on training and equipment will pay for itself — fewer cases will go to trial because subjects will see themselves and take a plea rather than allow the jury to see the criminal act with their own eyes," he says.

LEVA training is intended for anyone who is or who will be doing video or audio forensic processing. The term "multimedia" in the lab's name means a variety of media can be examined, not only analog and digital video but still images and audio. Fredericks notes students do not need to have a forensic video system in place. If an agency is thinking about doing anything with video, including in-car cameras, or video cameras in a jail, an interview room or at crime scenes, he says this course must be a prerequisite. However, if people are only curious about video forensics and want to know what computers can do with video, Garvin says they should contact LEVA to arrange a seminar to demonstrate the value of the science.

Regardless of experience, all students begin with the basic course. Frequently, Fredericks says at the end of a course, even students who have a lot of experience comment that they've learned far more than expected. Most students return for more advanced training. Those who pass the "Basic Forensic Video Analysis and the Law" course then can apply to enter the LEVA Forensic Video Analyst Certification Program, which Garvin points out is the only program of this kind offered anywhere. In fact, he says, some agencies are making LEVA certification a job requirement for their forensic video analysts.

Since July 2000, the departments of defense and homeland security, along with federal, state and local police agencies from the United States and around the world, have received forensic video analysis training from LEVA.

Known also for developing standards and guidelines for forensic video, LEVA sets training standards.

"LEVA training is no cake walk," says Kuntz. "Ask any student who sat in front of a LEVA instructor or took a LEVA exam. Those students who pass and receive a course certificate know they have accomplished something special and they should be proud of that."

At the first training in the new facility, 64 students attended the week-long "Basic Forensic Video Analysis and the Law" course.

Among them was Ernie Van Der Leest, a criminal investigator with the district attorney's office in Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Texas, where one of the regional International Association of Chiefs of Police forensic video labs will be located.

Van Der Leest, who had never done forensic video analysis previously, said the greatest benefit to him was learning the capabilities of forensic video. Without hesitation, he recommends the training to others.

"The facility and equipment is excellent," he says. "The instructors are extremely knowledgeable."

Garvin echoes the comment made by Van Der Leest, saying instructors are essential to good training.

"Any business could mirror this facility and call it something similar," Garvin says. "But, the one thing no other venue will acquire is the superbly competent, skilled and dedicated instruction team. Each instructor is a widely respected expert who has attained the knowledge and experience to collectively represent the best there is in doing what they do."

Prepared graduates

Some LEVA graduates have gone on to become LEVA trainers. Overall, LEVA graduates have assisted investigators in thousands of criminal cases. Some processed video evidence from 9/11.

"The readiness arsenal of the United States always needs to be re-evaluated and updated as new technology evolves," Kuntz says.

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