Toronto Catalogs Video Trove

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John Sandeman, manager of the TPS' Video Services Unit
The Toronto Police Service (TPS) receives about 54,000 videos a year. Some are recorded by the department's camera-equipped interview rooms and patrol cars. Others come from outside agencies, private security surveillance systems or the public.

by James Careless

All of these disparate videos have something in common: They must be ingested, cataloged, stored and made accessible to officers and court officers for evidence gathering and trials. One last thing: These videos must also be kept demonstrably free of tampering or editing. Otherwise, they are worthless as evidence.

In recent years, the TPS recorded all of its videos manually onto DVDs, and then had to store and track them through all stages of their existence. Not surprisingly, it took a lot of time and effort to keep this system going, and all the humans interacting with it left room for errors to occur. This is why the TPS recently moved its videos onto MediaSolv's Integrated Digital Evidence Management (iDEM) platform. Using iDEM, the TPS has been able to create an interlocking digital video recording, ingest, storage and retrieval system that monitors every aspect of the video's history- including who has seen it and when.

"Our technology offers investigators more autonomy and ownership over their cases," said Jim Weaver, President/CEO of MediaSolv Solutions. "Officers can now rapidly produce, find, watch and share the videos throughout the investigation and trial phases. That alone significantly speeds up the whole procedure and saves taxpayers' money."

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"In Toronto, we have created an infrastructure that is controlled by the 'Video Evidence Touchscreen System'; VETS for short," says John Sandeman, manager of the TPS' Video Services Unit. "Whenever an officer prepares to interview someone on camera, they touch the VETS monitor to set up the recording." As they enter their name and badge number, VETS automatically pulls their personnel information from the TPS' human resources database and attaches it to the video file's metadata. Then when the officer adds the relevant case file number to the video file, VETS accesses the TPS' Criminal Information Processing Systems (CIPS) and attaches all of the case data.

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If the person to be interviewed is in custody, adding them to the video file takes a few touches on the VETS screen.

After the recording is done, the video file is stored on the TPS database, where it can be accessed across the network by authorized investigators, viewed by senior officers on demand and burned to DVD for use in court. Since the VETS system is fully tied into the rest of the TPS' databases, such DVDs can have case files and other non-video information loaded onto them as well.

"We are just in the process of rolling out VETS across the department," Sandeman says. "To date, the TPS units that have it now are reporting real improvements in their video handling. That's good news, because as more agencies add video surveillance to their systems and we get access to that video, VETS reduces the time required to manage it properly."


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The Right Way to Shoot Crime Scene Video

~ BY JAMES CARELESS ~  The good news: Crime scene video has become an essential aspect of the U.S. judicial system, opening up lots of employment opportunities for videographers nationwide. The bad news: The onus is on the videographer to shoot the evidence properly, using methods that do not distort, omit or sensationalize what happened at the crime scene.