Hello all, Alex Carmichael the Chair of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Standards Strand of his National Surveillance Camera Strategy here again (and Chief Executive of the SSAIB as a day job). The Commissioner tasked a working group from my strand to look at the issue of video data produced by surveillance camera systems and ability of this video data to be easily played by the police and the courts.
What's the problem?
You may say, what’s the problem? Just download the video data and then upload to view! If only life was that easy. Speak to any of the police forensic science surveillance experts or the courts service and they can let you know thousands of reasons why this is not the case.
So, why is it such a problem? Well to start with, the surveillance camera systems market is a fragmented market, with respect to exporting of video data, and the move to digital surveillance camera systems the complexity of evidence collection has grown exponentially.
Most manufacturers have bespoke systems with proprietary software and the current speed of technology change means that manufacturers are looking to be first to market with new innovative products. This is understandable, but one of the vital aspects of any surveillance camera system should be its ability to provide the right surveillance data in the right format, at the right time and to be easily transferred. In our view, to law enforcement agencies. This is not always the case in surveillance systems.
If you want your surveillance camera system images to be used by the police and the courts, then your system should meet principle 11 of the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice:
When the use of a surveillance camera system is in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and there is a pressing need for its use, it should then be used in the most effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim of processing images and information of evidential value.
Easy to say, but can the images from your surveillance camera system be removed easily by the police and can the police view your images easily? Is this a question you have thought about? Is this a question you asked when you bought the surveillance camera system? If not, why not?
What do we want to achieve?
So, what is the Commissioner’s video surveillance systems standard output working group up to and what does it hope to achieve? Well the working group is looking at condensing the issues the police and courts have with video data from surveillance camera systems and put them into a document which, will set out the current situation and problems, possible solutions and recommendations. The intention is then is to sit down with surveillance camera manufacturers and discuss with them what the issues are and, hopefully, work with them to resolve the issues by getting a level of agreement by different manufacturers on common agreed video outputs.
The video surveillance systems standard output working group is made up of National Police Chiefs’ Council and individual police forces, the Courts and Tribunal Service, police forensic experts, the Centre for the Protection of the National Infrastructure, the National Association of Surveillance Camera Managers and others. The group has a wealth of experience in video output data issues, but understands it is only by talking and working together with manufacturers will real change happen and this can only be of benefit all those involved in, and those who use surveillance camera systems. As somebody once said, it’s good to talk!
This new project is one part of the Commissioner’s drive to ensure all surveillance camera systems are fit for purpose and meet the government’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.