Unified Digital Evidence
New Orleans has become the first U.S. city to incorporate a new video and audio management simplification tool for local law enforcement agencies and police officers who use body cameras.
The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office signed a two-year contract with Vū Digital, a Jackson, Mississippi-based video metadata company, to use a completely transcribed and searchable video review tool, which eliminates the need to pore through the hundreds of hours of video and audio produced daily by police officers who wear body cameras while on patrol.
“Research shows that the use of body cameras reduce citizen complaints, but only if the video and audio data can be easily, quickly and cost effectively indexed, referenced, cataloged and managed in a responsible, cost-effective manner,” said Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. “With S.M.A.R.R.T., we use computer vision technology to make that a reality.”
S.M.A.R.R.T. (Storage Metadata Automated Redaction Review Technology) uses advanced algorithms to decipher and tag data. The software breaks video into frames and then analyzes each frame for faces, text and audio and tags and time stamps all of the metadata.
“Police and prosecutors need a way to quickly manage and sort through video and audio evidence because it takes too long to view these large volumes of content in real time,”Cannizzaro said. “This automated system will save us time and money while allowing our police and prosecutors to focus on their critical duties.”
The New Orleans Police Department has approximately 1,400 body cameras with 700 to 800 sworn officers using the devices in the field. With 8,000 to 9,000 cases a year where body cameras are used, there are thousands of hours of video footage to review, categorize and catalog for evidence and use in criminal prosecution and court cases. Cannizzaro said the S.M.A.R.R.T. technology solution helps simplify and shorten the process.
One of the key features of the new S.M.A.R.R.T. technology is that it makes video completely searchable. The software creates an audio transcript and record of faces and text in each video through an automated system, which means an officer or investigator can type in a person’s name or keywords like drugs and search for when and where it was spoken in the video.
“We provide a quick, easy solution that saves law enforcement and the criminal justice system money and resources through a turn-key approach that captures all of the video and audio data for evidence with granular metadata,” said Wade Smith, vice president of Operations for Vū Digital. “We’ve appended metadata to every half-second of video.”
Another huge time and resource-saving feature of the software technology is an accelerated method of identifying and removing portions of video that are not relevant to the case. “You can easily highlight and remove the words, faces and places you don’t want in the replay and a complete audio trail keeps track of all redactions, edits and file sharing to ensure proper chain-of-custody protocols,” Smith said.
In addition, multiple body camera videos from the same scene can be synched to view together or individually. “You can often quickly discern that some officers wearing body cameras are removed from the immediate scene and their video is not relevant to the case,” Cannizzaro said. “This feature, coupled with the ability to scan wavelengths to determine if there is any sound, are huge timesavers.”
While New Orleans is the first city to formally use the S.M.A.R.R.T. technology, Vū is offering to help law enforcement agencies in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas in their investigations of recent police-involved shootings by analyzing officer body camera video free of charge.
Smith said the company hopes the offer will help expedite the resolution of the high-profile cases and aid in the administration of justice. “These investigations are likely to take considerable time and expense to review and analyze all of the body camera video without the use of our computer vision technology.”
An earlier version of Vū’s video-to-data product was designed to help content providers better monetize their video assets before the company developed a customized law enforcement user interface using key facial recognition and audio transcription technology.