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Case Study: How Avon and Somerset Police Solved Compliance Challenges and Increased Officers’ Productivity with Amped Replay

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In this article, we’ll see how Avon and Somerset Police, part of the South West Police Forensics collaboration in the UK, solved the compliance challenges posed by the new code of conduct set by the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) and ISO17025 with Amped Replay, shortening the time needed to investigate crimes by 2 to 4 weeks and allowing investigators to work independently in 60% of cases.

The Need to Work with Video Evidence at All Levels

CCTV and Video Surveillance Systems (VSS) record using countless different formats and variations. Most are not playable with standard software and even when they are, valuable information such as the date and time may fail to be displayed. Not being able to play or evaluate these video files promptly can mean the risk of losing vital intelligence and evidence.
Just being able to play the video is not enough. Processing and conversion must be possible to allow the gathering of actionable information during investigations.

The UK national regulations that came into force in 2023 require much stricter compliance and quality processes for all kinds of forensic work, including video forensics. The Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) has defined different tasks and activities that should be conducted within forensic quality assurance frameworks. These are subject to the ISO 17025 standard. However, certain activities can take place outside of the formal forensic process. For example, converting and performing basic processing of video files are out of the scope of ISO unless they serve as preliminary steps for further forensic science activities and are performed with validated tools.

In light of these changes and the ever-increasing operational needs, Avon and Somerset Police, were looking for a solution that would fulfill the following requirements:

  • Make available the conversion and subsequent playback of proprietary CCTV/DVR video formats to the entire force
  • Make available basic processing functions on image and video evidence to the entire force
  • Ensure compliance by having these activities performed with validated tools that allowed them not to be considered “forensic activities” and thus outside of the scope of ISO

“The forensic science regulator has quite rightly taken a look at all forensic providers across the UK, whether they’re private or public, and is essentially telling those businesses that they need to start delivering a much better quality service. 
So with that came the implementation of ISO 17025 across forensic laboratories in the UK. Now, as part of that sort of ISO implementation, you’ve got some functions that have to be accredited, and then you’ve got other functions that don’t necessarily need to be accredited. [..] So what we needed was a system that would allow for the majority of people to be able to make use of it outside of the scope of ISO. […]
It needed to be something that could be deployed across our force network and crucially, and […] it is needed to be a system that maintains the quality of evidence as we need it to be being in the middle of a forensic discipline.”

David Matthews, Regional Forensic Video & Audio Manager, Avon and Somerset Police

How Amped Replay Met and Exceeded the Requirements

Avon and Somerset Police found a solution to their challenges with Amped Replay. Amped Replay is not structured around any specific national requirement. Indeed, it was designed since the beginning with such a use case in mind. It allows the division of tasks in policing that are more or less the same worldwide, but ensures the forensic rigor required within a legal environment.

So, how does Amped Replay fulfill the specific needs and challenges of Avon and Somerset Police?

  • Easy deployment to the entire force: while there are multiple licensing options available for Amped Replay, A&S has chosen Floating Licenses with Online Activation. This licensing option enables the software to be installed on a wide number of officers’ machines. It permits a certain number of instances to be active simultaneously. This approach maximizes the use of available licenses and makes the system more cost-effective than traditional digital licenses.
    Using online activation, no local hardware is needed for the licensing. Data privacy is still guaranteed since the only information shared with the server is the technical data needed to start the software.
  • Accurate conversion of proprietary CCTV/DVR video formats: like all Amped products, Amped Replay implements the technology of the Amped Engine. This powerful tool allows for proprietary data originating from CCTV and VSS to be analyzed and then managed forensically. In the UK, this is covered within the FSR Video Forensic Process: the lossless extraction of data from proprietary formats. This step is extremely important and often misunderstood. Other tools usually simply force the playback of proprietary videos through common libraries and programs without a proper understanding of the file structure: this often causes the loss of frames, the creation of decoding errors, or the failure to identify associated data such as date & time or audio. On the other end, the stream extraction processes implemented by Amped Engine allow us to accurately extract and convert video, audio, and timestamp streams even from multi-camera exports.
  • One single tool for any kind of image and video format: Amped Replay allows to work the same way with other kind of data, such as photos and videos coming from body-worn cameras, dash cams, mobile phones, and social media, reducing the training requirements, and making it the go-to solution for all their viewing and processing needs.
  • Basic processing functions: A&S Police wanted to give their officers some tools to quickly process the video, such as deinterlacing, rotation, cropping, contrast and brightness adjustment. Furthermore, they wanted to be able to perform audio and video redaction (for freedom of information requests). They also sought to annotate by adding shapes or a spotlight effect on the video to highlight some details. All these are available in Amped Replay in a complete and easy-to-use package that requires very little training to be used proficiently.
  • Compliance with forensic requirements: Amped Replay not only met but also exceeded the requirements of A&S. The software included some features that were not initially considered but were later found to be very useful. On the other hand, some of the features offered by Amped Replay, according to A&S interpretation of the UK FSR requirements, may have been considered “forensic science activities” under the scope of ISO. Consequently, they didn’t want to make them available to the officers. This point was easily solved with Replay, since it allows a very flexible configuration and customization of features at the system administrator level. Admin configuration allows the ability to select which features are enabled or disabled, ensuring compliance with each force’s policy. In the case of A&S, they disabled the aspect ratio correction, resizing, sharpening, magnification, and picture-in-picture.

“So if I were working for the defence, the first thing I’d be looking at is the process. I’d be looking at the evidence that had been submitted to me and confirming that the processes that those investigators had employed were appropriate for the method. Did they do things properly? Did they […] cut corners? So if any of that is proven to be true, where appropriate processes weren’t deployed on that particular piece of work or where corners were cut, then it becomes a very simple case of being able to arrange for that evidence to be made inadmissible in court. […]
We ultimately landed with Amped Replay, as that was the one that was mostly able to meet our requirements around the quality of evidence, but also some of the functionality which we didn’t even know we needed until we saw it”

David Matthews, Regional Forensic Video & Audio Manager, Avon and Somerset Police

The Impact of Amped Replay at Avon and Somerset

The benefits of introducing Amped Replay in the Force were almost immediate.

The biggest advantage is the fact that investigators can now work independently on streamlined video tasks with Amped Replay. On one hand, this means they can operate much faster since they can work directly on cases instead of having to interface with forensic teams even for basic tasks. This reduced the time to investigate a crime by 2 to 4 weeks per case. Thanks to this, the forensic teams have experienced a 60% reduction in submitted exhibits in the first two months of delivery. This allows them to dedicate their time and skills to more complex tasks where their competence is better exploited.

“The benefits that we’ve seen in our office are we’ve seen a 60% reduction in submitted exhibits and […]cases to my department purely within the first two months of delivery. 
So what this has meant for our team because of the reduction in the sort of work that’s coming through to the office means that we can focus on those specialist services that we should be […] performing for our victims of crime. 
So when you’ve got highly specialist video technicians working in an office, they shouldn’t be spending their time just getting things ready so that an officer doesn’t have to sit in a 12 week backlog of evidence. They should be able to focus on their investigative work, and officers should be allowed to focus on their investigative work. Our front-line officers are now empowered to be able to continue with their investigations as soon as they get back to the office
and my team has the time that they need in order to focus on those high-risk sorts of investigations that they should be working on […]
It’s reduced the amount of exhibits coming into my department within forensics. It’s reduced the amount of time that it takes to investigate crime from anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks. For the average case that has CCTV as an element of it, and ultimately because of those two things, it’s increased the quality of the service that we provide to our victims of crime.”

David Matthews, Regional Forensic Video & Audio Manager, Avon and Somerset Police

Acknowledgments

This case study has been done in cooperation with David Matthews, Regional Forensic Manager at Avon and Somerset Police, and Michael Hartsthorne, at Best Evidence Ltd, our distributor for the UK, whose work has been crucial for assessing the end user needs and supporting the various stages of the acquisition and deployment process. Below you can find the video of the case study.

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