1. #1
    DFD 304
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question Digital Camera For Investigation.

    We have recently purchased a Sony digital camera. It is the type that uses a 3.5 floppy disk that downloads directly to any kind of word program. I have heard mixed opinions on the use of this type of camera for investigations. The main con is that the pictures can be altered. Does anyone have any more info or ideas? It is too nice and easy not to use.

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Food for thought.
    1. The altering defense would be a very real defense that would be a problem. Digital pics are easy for the investigator to alter. Using an unbiased photo lab tech would be easier to defend. They would have nothing to gain by changing or altering a photograph.
    2. With photographs and testimony, the question is, "Is the photograph an accurate representation of the scene?" Because of the new technology, I do not believe you can acurately attest to that statement. Blured, inacurate lighting, manipulation of the actual digital pic for clarity would all be targets by the defense. Photographs have been time tested in court and real life. I think the jurors would be sceptical of the new techology and easy to manipulate against you.
    3. Digital pics are difficult to reproduce on a media that can be handled by the jury. Some attorney's like that idea. They can take it back to the Jury room when deliberating. If they are used in a power point presentation, the courtroom lighting would need to be adjusted darker.
    4. The resolution of a digital pic is not as good as a good 35mm or larger camera format. Try enlarging a digital pic and photograph negative at the same magnification. The photograph would be superior.

    I do not profess to be an expert. But, I would wait for other agencies to have the test case and see how that works out. Then make the decission to commit to digital pics.

    Good luck

  3. #3
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Halon is grossly misinformed. Digital photography has a very real place in fire investigation. The equipment is improving every day and provides a versatile alternative to traditional film photography. Let me address some of the issues.

    1. Altering the photos is possible with digital photography. However, there are systems available that memorialize the unaltered photograph. The system that I am familiar with is from Kodak. When the photo is taken, the picture is saved with a tag that can only be saved once (I believe it is *.kdf). If even one pixel of the photo is altered, it can never be saved in that format again, although it can be saved as a bmp, gif, etc. Utilizing this system, you can always attest to the original, unaltered photograph. In fact, with the purchase of the system, Kodak claims to provide free expert testimony to their system in the event of a court challenge. More information can be obtained on the Kodak website, on the Law Enforcement pages.

    In fact, using an altered photograph is not always a bad thing. Darkrooms frequently enhance color, brightness, contrast, etc. There is nothing wrong with doing that. Enhancements will allow the jury to see the clearer picture and are totally legal, as long as you have the original photo as stated above.

    2. The equipment that is sold today provides superior reproduction capability. We use an HP 1600C color inkjet printer. With glossy photo paper (available Staples, CompUSA, etc) the photos are hard to distinguish from traditional print film. It is far cheaper to reproduce the photos this way, it is faster also. Imagine printing a copy of the photos for each juror! Impressive.

    3. Presenting the digital photo to a jury is an exciting venture. Instead of standing in front of the jury box, trying to get everyone to see an 8x10, you can use an LCD projector and project the photos on a screen so they are 6 foot across if you want to. it allows everyone to see and allows the investigator to basically conduct a seminar on that fire, standing at the screen and completely explaining a photo. The OJ trial was basically run this way.

    I predict that law enforcement will be primarily using digital photography within ten years. It is the technologically smart way to go. One problem with it is people putting it down who have absolutley no idea of what they are talking about. Halon, you are right, you are not an expert. I appreciate your interest in fire investigation, but maybe you should stick to things you know about.


  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest


    George is right. In your testimony you assert to the representation of the photo you are entering. Another point is that if the photo is taken to a local photo processor they may also manipulate the photo in their process. I think the key question is Does it accurately represent the scene at the time the photo was taken. Thanks

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Ok here's the Legalease on this subject.
    Current appelate courts hold that due to the ease of altering digital photographs they are generally not accepted in court. Check your local rules and regulations for addmitance of photographic evidence.
    Other than that It's a good idea.
    You might want to think about just using a camcorder and take your stills from that, that way if there is a question about the authenticity of the picture presented you can refer to the !"Un-Edited"! video tape.

    Alex Capezza BS,CFEI,CFII,FF2,EMT-I

    [This message has been edited by Capez (edited October 03, 1999).]

  6. #6
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs down

    If "current appellate courts" have made this ruling, please provide case names and citations. Please do this ASAP. The federal court rules, on which most state court rules are based, clearly state that the criteria for allowing photos is that the are a clear and accurate depiction of the scene. They can be taken with a $10.00 camera or a $1000 camera. They can be color or black and white. They can be "altered" (all color photos are altered in the lab to adjust contrast, brightness and tone). Enhanced photos (which are altered from the original) are admissable as long the original photo is produced. This is done through testimony and documentation of the scene via notes, diagrams and reports. i find it hard to believe that there is any case law that says digital photography is not "generally" accepted, but I am always willing to admit when I am wrong.

    George Wendt, CFI

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    The reality as it applies to digital photography is as follows; 1) Defense attorneys love Investigators to use digital photography, because they can introduce doubt in the mind of the jury, never mind apellate court decisions. Remember that even the APS (advanced photo systems) photos can be considered altered, so while the digital photograph is an EXCELLENT documentary tool, you had better have some 35mm back-ups. Yes, before this is addressed, a credible and knowledgeable investigator CAN sway a jury away from doubt, but with daubert being what it is, and arson being the most difficult crime to prove, keeping with standards can't be all that bad. Besides, I am waiting to see how the NFPA deals with it in 921 before I insist upon digital cameras It can not be a bad idea to follow the guidelines that the lawyers use to discredit investigators. I would suggest using them only if you talk to your prosecutors FIRST, see how the defense lawyers act, and how the judges react to digital cameras, before you proceed. --Rob

  8. #8
    Firehouse.com Guest


    is a clearly written white paper on the topic. Remember they sell law enforcement digital imaging systems.

    The Sony takes pictures in JPG format, which can be re-touched, although a *VERY* good computer imaging geek should be able to detect the alteration.

    The main drawback to digital imaging is still the "depth" of the pictures. High end prints still beat high end digital...but not for many more years

    As for modification, with digital encryption technologies it is easier to prove that the photo has not been manipulated since it was taken. You can't say that with film. I don't believe the Sony uses this type of technology.

    Looking into the near future, we will soon have the computing power to take continous high pixel VIDEO that rivals 35mm stills. Just think of the possibilities of having a video you can take any single frame out of as your still!

    But in the end...checking with your prosecutors is still the most important thing right now to see what they will accept!

  9. #9
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Two thoughts. First, digital photography has absolutley nothing to do with Daubert. Daubert was a court decision which bascially set up a standard to be reached as far as the scientific aspect of the investigation. There is nothing in Daubert or any of the other related court decisions that has anything to do with the whether or not digital photography can be used at a fire scene.

    Second, please remember...every single photograph that is processed in a lab is altered...every one. It is altered as to brightness, contrast, tone, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. With a system such as Kodak's, the original photo you take is saved in a format once. If it is altered, even one pixel, that photo can never be saved in that format again. So if you keep both the original unaltered photo along with your enhanced photo, you can show even better than with 35 mm photography that the integrity of your photo is intact. Kodak will also provide one of their experts to testify for you if you are using their system.


    PS: Digital video technology will be the next revolution in crime scene documentation.

  10. #10
    Firehouse.com Guest


    PS: Digital video technology will be the next revolution in crime scene documentation.

    Not to mention many other places...I'd be very surprised ten years from now not to have video technology at a minimum transmitting at least still images from ambulance to ER on serious calls, and within twenty full two-way video when needed to help the ER size up what's needed for the incoming call.

  11. #11
    Firehouse.com Guest


    George is right on. I constantly issue challenges when I speak on this subject to anyone who can show me case precedence which questions or throws out digital photography.

    To paraphrase the prosecutors and defense attorneys I have spoken with: "I/We don't care so much about the technology. What is the most important question is, "Is this a true and accurate description of the scene as you remember?

    Another point on symantics, all photos are constantly "manipulated" to bring out the most accurate and easily viewed image with brightness, contrast, color enhancement, etc. Problems arise when photographs are "altered" to show things that were not in the scene, or hide those things that were in the scene.

    A local law enforcement officer I know personally has used digital for over 4 years on everything from arson to hazmat to SWAT calls. He has NEVER had any of his images thrown out or disallowed from his court cases.

    On another note: Think about this, If an investigator is of questionable character enough to gather the training education and experience to alter a digital photograph well enough to pass even the most superficial examination, why would he go through so much trouble. One with such low character would most likely find the easier way out like "salting" his evidence he collected.

  12. #12
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Well, I issued the challenge about two weeks ago and no answer. He won't answer because there are no cases.

    Bob, the frightening thing about your statement is that we both know that type of investigator.


  13. #13
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Here is an intersting article from the Kodak website. Seems to add to the evidence that Cappez made up the info in his post.

    "Digital Imagery in the Courtroom
    Is digital imagery admissible in court? Without question, yes!

    There's much confusion on this point, primarily because digital technologies make it relatively easy to manipulate images, which makes digital imaging technology suspect in the courtroom. The problem is, digital technology also makes it easy to alter film images and video footage.

    For instance, a malicious operator could take a film negative to a professional photo lab, scan the image into a computer, modify it electronically, and write the new image to a strip of the same film. This could make the fraudulent film strip highly undetectable. Should this potential for fraud put suspicion on all imagery presented in court?

    Imagery Is Not Evidence
    Remember. Imagery is not evidence. Instead, the testimony of a witness is evidence, and the image is an "exhibit" to that testimony. Ultimately, all evidence in a police case revolves around the integrity and veracity of the witness presenting the image, who must demonstrate its authenticity to the court.

    Furthermore, a person testifying under fear of perjury must explain what the image shows, why it is relevant, how it was acquired, how it came to be in court, and what it implies. The issue therefore is much greater than the image by itself.

    Alleviating Suspicion
    The best way to alleviate suspicion about a witness' testimony is to be able to say: "We have standard operating procedures, and we followed them in preparing these images."

    Successful use of digital technology in the courtroom is the result of controlling the procedures by which the images were captured, handled, archived and secured. Agencies planning to acquire digital technology should develop standard operating procedures (SOPs), and then ensure that all staff follow them. SOPs are one of the best ways to dispel suspicion in the courtroom."

    Check out Kodak's Law Enforcement page at http://www.kodak.com/global/en/profe...aw/index.shtml

    Here's another indication that Cappez is all wet. This is a link to an article written by a (presumably) defense lawyer in Seattle who discusses the challenges that digital photgraphy offers to the trier of fact, but acknowledges that there is currently no litigatory prohibition against their use.

    [This message has been edited by George Wendt, CFI (edited November 07, 1999).]

  14. #14
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I think we should all try this technology out before settling on whether or not it works. Obviously not everyone is used to the technology or has used it to is fullest extent.

    Maybe we should develop a standard for fire scene photography.

    Bob, this might be a good discussion topic at the conference in Longmont in January.


  15. #15
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I too have a Sony digital camera for investigations. The opinons are mixed in Alabama. Everyone I have talked to say to discuss it with the local district attorney. I have and ours says NO to digital. He wants the negatives of the standard photo process. SO, now i have a new toy to use for training...


  16. #16
    Firehouse.com Guest


    While doing a little research in the Lloyd Sealy Library at John Jay College I happened to come across an article in a periodical about the current and future uses of digital photography in the courtroom. It's author raised, and then dismissed, most concerns that the technology may be manipulated. He referred to an appellate decision denying the application of a defendant who, prior to being charged with the crime, was ordered to submit to non-testimonial identification procedures. Routine, but digital, photographs of his physical characteristics revealed he had recently received wounds, possibly defense wounds from the victim. Overuling defense objections, and without case law demonstrating otherwise, the trial judge allowed the original digital photographs and 'enhanced' photographs into the trial as discovery obtained from normal procedures during investigative detention.

  17. #17
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I use a JVC digital / S-VHSC Camcorder. It Allows you to do both. When I use it on a scene I take all pictures in video format. This allows for the pictures to be stored directly to the tape. You can then pull the pictures from the tape, but the original is still on the tape. I have not had to contest it yet, however I feel confident if I ever have too....

  18. #18
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Simply put, as investigators on the stand, we swear under oath that the evidence we present, be it digital or film based photographs, or any type of material evidence, it is presented in its most original, and unaltered state (by unaltered, I mean not recreated to display untruthful images). 35mm stills can be altered just as easily as a digital. Video can be edited to show anything we want. It is our responsibility to be honest, and be able to tell a jury that this evidence is as found or as seen. **When asked if this photo is an accurate reproduction of what is seen, you can quite honestly say no, that it is not to scale.

  19. #19
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Just for your fyi (not sure how helpful this will be for you topic, thought you might like to take a look however.)

    if this link doesnt work let me know, I will email the link to whoever wants it.

    Ok, here is another. On the search engine on this site if you put in digital photography as evidence it brings up several things. www.epic-phone.org

    [This message has been edited by Speedi120 (edited July 28, 2000).]

  20. #20
    Firehouse.com Guest


    For some great learning information go to photocourse.com

    Also, calaction.com has an article by an attorney who works for the San Diego County Arson Task Force on digital photography.

    Ted J. Pagels, Fire Chief, CFEI

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register