Do we need a certification program for police video archivists & technicians? (with related video)
As they adopt body and dash cams, police departments are finding they need to safeguard and archive enormous amounts of video. Eric Blanchard, police chief in Aransas Pass, Texas, tells GPN that his department has archived between 2 and 4 terabytes of video from Taser body cams that officers wear. A terabyte equals a thousand gigabytes. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2013 Aransas Pass, Texas, had a population of 8,329.
GPN checked in with Pittsburgh criminal attorney Mike Worgul to get his views on the need for a police video tech certification program. Worgul has written extensively about police body cameras and video footage. His biography and information on his legal philosophy is here.
GPN: Do we need a certification program for police video archivists and technicians?
Mike Worgul: In short: Yes, I’m willing to bet that certification programs for police video archivists will eventually be mandatory. From a legal standpoint, there are just too many loopholes that police and district attorneys would have to navigate around if there weren’t certification programs.
The one barrier to police video archivists is the cost. Who will foot the bill for these programs? I suspect this will come up in the future.
GPN: Who would benefit if a certification program for police video archivists and technicians was created and in operation?
MW: Law enforcement should want this kind of training; if nothing else, it protects them.
Let’s say, for example, a police body camera catches footage of a police officer acting appropriately — in other words, a stand-up cop doing a stand-up job. However, an individual feels otherwise and decides to sue the department. Improperly logged video evidence could undo everything that’s working in favor of the police officer and his or her department. Proper video storage is just as important as capturing the video itself, at least from a legal standpoint.
GPN: Will trained, certified personnel ensure that video evidence is not compromised?
MW: Without certified personnel handling the footage, you might end up with chain of custody issues. Should such an issue arise, a judge could determine that video evidence was handled improperly and is therefore completely inadmissible. It’s every lawyer’s nightmare for crucial evidence to be ruled inadmissible for technical or bureaucratic issues, and it could very well be a nightmare for a good police officer should they be wrongly accused of something.
GPN: Are there any organizations that might wind up managing a certification program for police video archivists or technicians?
MW: At this point we don’t know which organizations or companies will emerge to manage police video archivist certifications. Organizations like the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and the International Association of Chiefs of Police may end up offering these programs, similar to how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers training in administering field sobriety tests for DUIs. The International Association of Chiefs of Police also offers a course on DUI detection and field sobriety tests. Time will tell as police video footage becomes more commonplace.
Author’s note: David Roberts of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) told GPN in an e-mail: “IACP does not offer certification for video archivists or technicians. We do address the expanding needs of law enforcement agencies in dealing with video from a variety of perspectives, but no formal certifications.” Roberts is senior program manager at the IACP Technology Center.
What do you think? Do we need a certification program for police video archivists & technicians? Offer your views in the Discuss this Article box below!
In the video, expert Yvonne Ng offers tips on archiving video for activists.