Forensic Focus recently interviewed Blake Sawyer, our latest addition to the Amped team to support the North American market. We are reposting the interview Forensic Focus published on its website. To see the original post on Forensic Focus, click here.
Congratulations on your new role! Tell us more about your law enforcement career. How did you get into digital forensics?
Thanks so much! I am excited about the opportunity to come and work for Amped Software. I got into digital forensics in a kind of roundabout way. I earned a Computer Science degree in college and went to work for Apple. After several years of support and QA, I got involved in Audio and Video Production. That led me, eventually into working for the Plano Police Department in Plano, TX, USA in 2014.
At the time, there was no dedicated unit for video forensics, but the department knew there was increasingly more need for someone who understood video. Almost 6 months later, there was a major case involving a homicide where the majority of the evidence relied heavily on the video. Using Amped FIVE, I was able to help investigators understand what information we had on video, play and process almost 500GB of proprietary videos, and create analytic comparison and demonstrative charts. Since that time, the department has grown to have 3 full-time video analysts retrieving and processing 200-300 videos a month. Without FIVE that would have been almost impossible.
How did you come to work for Amped? What about the role and the company excited you most?
I have been a user of Amped FIVE since 2014. I was impressed with the ease of use and deep analytic potential of the product. Once I purchased Amped DVRConv, I was a big fan. Through the years I have been an advanced user and helped suggest features and improvements. When Martino Jerian, the CEO and Founder of Amped Software, called me about the job, I was very excited about the opportunity. I have always enjoyed solving problems and helping people. Working in a role that allows me to help and teach people in a field that I care a lot about is one of the things I am most excited about.
Being able to move from helping one local police department to helping Law Enforcement and Video Examiners throughout North America is something that I couldn’t pass up. The more people learn how to look at video and actually be able to get scientifically correct information from it is critical to the field. I am glad to be able to do my part.
Tell us a bit about your role: what do you expect a day in your life will look like?
My role is still being developed to a large extent. I plan to help build relationships within the digital forensics community, help solve problems either with casework or the software, and be an advocate for Amped Software and its potential in the United States and Canada. Day to day that can look really different. From training new users to showing how products like Amped Replay and Amped DVRConv can help agencies that don’t have the time or resources to dedicate someone to full-time video forensics, each day will be a new challenge.
How do you anticipate your experience will help you in working with Amped’s North American customers to choose solutions, go through training, and work through their challenges?
Having spent time in a local police department, I understand a bit of the struggle it can be for people to properly use video in investigations. On top of that, for the last two years, I have had the opportunity through LEVA (the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association) to go around the United States and into countries like Puerto Rico, teaching and helping investigators understand and overcome challenges with videos.
Through all of this, I have seen two constant struggles. 1, there are so many proprietary videos, codecs, and players, that all interfere with each other. Because of this, IT departments struggle to keep up, or limit players, making it hard for agencies to watch videos. 2, with all the playback issues, it is difficult for investigators to watch the “best evidence” and get clear, actionable information out to assist officers and other LE personnel.
These are two issues I am passionate about helping in, and Amped Software has a lot to offer that will help mitigate these issues quickly and accurately. Using products like FIVE or Replay, departments and agencies will be able to quickly playback videos in a forensically sound way and share actionable information without having to jump through a lot of hoops.
Additionally, DVRConv can help automate the problems of playback, and Authenticate can help validate images submitted by citizens and witnesses so that the evidence’s integrity holds up in court. One of the big increases I have seen is user submitted images and video, especially now with cloud-based recorders, social media, and the prevalence of high-quality cellphone cameras. Without solid ways to validate that the information is accurate, they could pose issues when they are presented in court.
What about your career have you found most rewarding thus far?
I have always wanted to find a role that helped others. Working in forensics for the police has allowed me to help protect innocent people from being pursued, as well as help present evidence to heinous crimes. In working with Amped Software, my hope is to be able to help others throughout North America do the same, so that when people do bad things on video, there are trained experts who can follow the evidence and bring justice to those who have been wronged.
In your first year with Amped, what are you hoping to accomplish?
My first priority is to help build a relationship between current or potential customers, and Amped Software. A lot will come through being available and supportive in any way that I can. I know there are a lot of users already, and I would love to get to know them and understand how we as a company can better serve them. Perhaps find out what is working well for them, and what can be improved so they can more efficiently clear cases and backlog.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love being able to spend time with my family on the weekends. We are big sports fans, especially baseball and hockey. When we can, we get away to see the Dallas Stars or Texas Rangers. Also, I have been playing with a Raspberry PI over the last year or so, and have had a lot of fun tinkering with that and a 3-D printed case that I made for it. Another thing I love is to get away to the mountains or woods. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of either near Dallas, but once or twice a year we try to get away and be in nature. As great and useful as technology is, it is great to get time to “unplug”.