Last week was pretty amazing. I’ve been traveling for business for the first time after more than two years since Coronavirus. While my colleagues had attended several events, I’ve not been around very much. I relied more (maybe too much) on what modern technology had offered to us.
However, there are some things that it is better to do in person. Stakeholder engagement is instrumental in order to deal with the institutions: particularly the EU ones.
And so, I traveled to Bruxelles where I visited the European Parliament for the first time. On may 17th I had the honor to organize the institutional meeting “Video Evidence Analysis During Investigations: Raising Awareness to Grant Security and Justice Through Science”.
The meeting was hosted by Lukas Mandl, Member of the European Parliament, Vice-Chair of the SEDE Committee, and Member of LIBE Committee, and sought the involvement of:
- Anna Breda, Public Affairs and Media Relations Manager at ExportUSA New York, Corp. as moderator (thanks to her fantastic work for the practical organization of the event!);
- Patrick De Smet, European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI), Chair of the Digital Imaging Working Group (DIWG);
- Vincent Jamin, Head of Operations Department at Eurojust.
Among the participants, there have been Members of the European Parliament, representatives of Eurojust, DG Justice, OSAC, the US Embassy in Belgium, former judges and magistrates as well as the EU missions of several countries.
During the event, I also had the opportunity to take a photo with Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament! She was involved in a very interesting press conference about photo evidence (what a coincidence!) of the Ukraine conflict.
What was the purpose of the meeting?
Let me go back shortly.
Training and education have always been an essential part of what Amped Software does. Back in the days when we started offering training for our software solutions Amped FIVE and Amped Authenticate, we didn’t want our courses to just explain which buttons to click. We didn’t focus only on the “what”, but also on the “why”. We trained our users first on understanding image and video evidence and the right way to handle it, then how to do it in practice with our tools. These are training classes for experts and analysts that have been historically our main users.
Then, we expanded to simpler products like Amped DVRConv and Amped Replay, which are more targeted toward investigators and users whose responsibility is not mainly related to digital and video analysis. While these users have exactly the same kind of issues as the analysts (the videos are always the same), we needed a different approach, because we could not expect from them the same technical background. So we did a lot of dissemination to create a bit of culture about video evidence, with blog series like “Video Evidence Pitfalls” and the “Investigating Video Evidence” course. The latter is often coupled with Amped Replay: being such an easy tool, we can spend more time showing the complexities of video rather than showing how to use the software (although there’s a component of that, too).
Then the next logical step came. Going on, we realized that we needed to raise awareness at a higher level. We felt the need to inform institutions and policymakers about the potential and challenges of video evidence, in order to disseminate a bit of knowledge to all the stakeholders: from courts to prosecutors, to attorneys, up to the general public. Lately, policymakers are devoting considerable attention to Artificial Intelligence and the related challenges, which is certainly important, however, video evidence is still the most common and most powerful kind of evidence nowadays.
I am copying here the main slides from the presentation, which summarize pretty well the main concepts.
Why is it so important? We should not take images and video for granted during investigations and in court: many cases nowadays rely primarily on this kind of evidence. If we don’t handle it properly, security and justice are at stake. Video evidence is not just “a video”, it’s “evidence” and should be treated as such.
There are a few key actions that we need to take. International guidelines are available such as those from ENFSI, SWGDE, OSAC, and the UK FSR, but they need to be more widely adopted. Awareness, education, and training are the key to improvement.
If you want to learn more, some of the points which have been discussed are presented in this previous blog post of mine.
This is hopefully just the first of a series of similar events. Together with many other initiatives, such as industry magazine articles and conference presentations, we want to keep doing the following things:
- Promoting training and awareness programs aimed at all the public safety and justice stakeholders (law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, etc.)
- Organizing, along with the decision-maker, a few more initiatives at both the national and international levels dedicated to institutions and policymakers
- Helping with the adoption and development of already existing international guidelines. It is extremely important to share the ones already in place that are provided by the scientific and forensic community and continue developing them
If you want to join me and organize some initiatives together, please contact me.