Thread: Digital Imaging

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    Question Digital Imaging

    Is there anybody out there using digital cameras to assist in their job function?

    We currently take standard pictures of violations, complaints and fire investigations, but it is making for one heck of a file cabinet.

    My concern really lies in the area of investigations of fires. Does anybody know of any cases where digital pictures did not hold up in court due to the potential of being edited on a pc prior to printing? If so, is there a way to provide proof that the picture is real and unedited.

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    FF Trainer,

    I am a very big advocate of Digital Photography and use it daily. HOWEVER, I do see some problems with it and its acceptance in court with the issue of alteration.

    You need to check with your DA and see what there thoughts and opinions are and how your states Rules of Evidence apply.


    Some of the maufacturers are working on systems to ID the pics as being authentic.

    www.interfire.org has an article on the issue.

    [ 01-18-2002: Message edited by: res7cue ]

    These views/ opinions are my own and not those of my employer/ department.

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    I hope you don't mind a reply from a non- investigator type, but it seems I read somewhere a while back in a topic very very similar to this one that Kodac uses a proprietary image format that is unalterable (I.E. you have to convert it to GIF JPG BMP or some other image format before you can load it into an editor and alter it).

    I also remember that same response stating that Kodak would send an "expert" to testify regarding the validity of your Digital Images if so needed.

    I did a very superficial scan of Kodaks' web site yesterday and I couldn't find anything so that all may have been rumor, but hopefully it might give you something more specific to look for.

    Also - depending on your type of camera. If you used a camera that records it's pictures to disk (Ex. Sony Mavica Line) - could you then not simply duplicate the disk and then seal one up in an evidence bag ? (Sorry if that's a dumb idea - I don't have a very broad knowledge of chain of custody rules/procedures)

    Anyway - I hope I have provided some food for thought.

    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
    Stephen
    FF/Paramedic
    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
    Stephen
    FF/Paramedic
    Instructor

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    FFTrainer,

    You may want to check out www.njlawnet.com and on the left side of the page you'll see Evidence Rules, check the following;

    Article IV. Relevancy and Its Limits
    Rule 403. Exclusion of relevant evidence on grounds of Predjudice, confusion,or waste of time.

    Article X. Contents of writings and photographs
    Rule 1002. Requirement of original
    Rule 1003. Admissibility of Duplicates

    Article IX; Authentication & Identification
    Rule 901. Requirement of Authentication or Identification

    Mind now that I'm not an atty of a NJ LEO, but I think these will help.

    Epson, Kodak and I believe Olympis are working on an IAS (Image Authentication System ?) that would baiscally mark each digital pic with fingerprint that would enable you top prove the original is just that and un-altered. Hopefully they will get these completed/ implemented soon.

    I use both Olympis and Sony Mavica Digitals and love the ease of use and ESPECIALLY the small amount of storage space needed. I also still use 35 MM in B&W and it's such a pain to develop, store, etc.
    These views/ opinions are my own and not those of my employer/ department.

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    FF; There is currently no case law in the United States that bans digital photographs from the courtroom. The test for any photograph, digital or film, is that the photo be relevant to the case and be an accurate representation of the scene. The judge decides the first issue. The photographer or someone substantially familiar with the scene can testify as to the accuracy.

    As far as accuracy, let's be honest. Anyone can manipulate a digital photo. For example, I scanned a baseball card of Mariano Rivera and placed a digital photo of my son's head on it and made it look pretty good. But a photo expert could look at it for a split second and see the fraud. That's the way it would be with altered crime scene photos. You would have to get things like perspective, lighting, scale, shadows, etc. all perfectly arranged. And then you would most likely have to do it with pictures taken from several angles. It's not realistic. It doesn't happen. Besides, if someone argues to have all digital photography barred from court, aren;t we starting at the premise that all investigators and crime scene people are inherently dishonest? Historically, the courts have embraced new technology, not pushed it away. Res7cue, please cite which COURT has refused to accept digital photography..period. Because if it is true, there is no legal precedent for them to do it.

    N@, some good points. I posted awhile back about Kodak. I am preparing a class on digital photography and I searched their website. I learned that they have dropped their Law Enforcement Liaison program, as well as eliminated the whole section from their website. Believe me, it used to be there. A salesman spoke on this subject at the IAAI meeting in Portland several years back and outline the whole program.

    However, your comments about the Mavica are right on. We use the CD-1000 on every fire and are very close to going to it 100%. In addition, our Vehicular Homicide Unit and the Insurance Fraud Unit also use it. Our SOP's call for the original disc to be placed into evidence after it is copied. A succesful digital photography program will have complete SOP's, so you can do it the same way, every time.

    Please remember that a manipulated photo can still be used in court. Photos that are enhanced for clarity, color etc. are perfectly OK, as long as the original is there, or in this case the disc, to authenticate it.

    Hope this helps.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    George,

    I stand corrected. It was my impression on the courts refusal to allow digital pics.

    I just confirmed this AM that there eveidently is not a court that has refused to allow them. (yet)

    While I feel very strongly about the positives of their use, I still think that there is room for jurors to be blurred by some Def Atty and the issue of alteration, originals, duplicates and that whole messy issue.

    I have an appt to see a new IAS at my old PD. My old Cpl (now Det Sgt) called me about it and I'm going to see how it's set up.
    These views/ opinions are my own and not those of my employer/ department.

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    I personally don't like digital photography because I don't think its as good as film. I have a full set of 35mm equipment, including multiple flash units, 1:1 macro lenses (not add-on attachments), etc. I am also a semi-pro photographer on the side, so I'm kind of a purist. Kodak themselves has said that digital has to get to about 25megapixels to equal 35mm film.
    That being said, there is plenty of times digital has its advantages. I've had other investigators use digital when they've needed something quick to show a witness or suspect.
    I approach film vs. digital on a "hybrid" approach. I shoot on 35mm film. I have a film scanner (not a flatbed) that scans negatives at 2700dpi. When I get my negs back I scan them (not the prints) and save them to a cd. I then safely store the negs. If someone wants to see the pics I've shot, I give them a copy of the cd. If there is ever a question in court as to the validity of my digital images, I can always produce the negatives to compare them to.
    Fool proof? Maybe not, but it would be hard to attack them in court when the scanned images are an EXACT copy of the negs.

    Bob, CFEI

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    [quote]Originally posted by res7cue:
    George,

    I stand corrected. It was my impression on the courts refusal to allow digital pics.

    I just confirmed this AM that there eveidently is not a court that has refused to allow them. (yet)

    While I feel very strongly about the positives of their use, I still think that there is room for jurors to be blurred by some Def Atty and the issue of alteration, originals, duplicates and that whole messy issue.

    I have an appt to see a new IAS at my old PD. My old Cpl (now Det Sgt) called me about it and I'm going to see how it's set up.




    Let me share a quote with you that was provided to me by my good friend Bob Toth, CFI. It is from a reported court case Fair Haven v. Westville R. Co.:

    It is common knowledge that as to such matters, either through want of skill of the artist, or inadequate instruments or materials, or through intentional and skillful manipulation, a photograph may not only be inaccurate but dangerously misleading".

    Clearly this decision was dealing with digital photography as it encompasses all of the problems with this modern technology.

    WRONG. The case was reported in 1899.

    You see, the courts are the gate keeper to make sure that only good evidence and facts get to the jury. A defense attorney can try anything he wants. However, once the photos have been properly admitted by the judge, the defense attorney needs to have a foundation on which to base his challenge. He must challenge the facts of the case as outlined by his adversary. Any challenge to the technology would be heard in a pre-trial hearing outside the presence of the jury. Since there is no legal precedent to base his objections, it most likely will be overruled. There is no "yet".

    Follow the rules of evidence. Document your photos. Have your agency develop an SOP specifically dealing with digital photography and follow it. You will not go wrong.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    George,

    Are you sure about that date, 1899? Or was this one of my common mistakes of a mistype?

    Chris
    -----------------------------------
    Chris Bloom
    CJB Fire Consultant
    Central Point, Oregon
    541-664-6595

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    Chris, the quote was provided to me by Bob during prep for his Digital Photography lecture at the 2001 AGM in Atlantic City. The date was 1899. I guess Bob would be in a better position to answer the question, but he is always right on the money.

    George

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    Talking Thanks George.

    George:

    I was just trying to point out an obvious clerical typing error that I saw.

    I understood the posting to be on digital photography and then the date of 1899 hit me (Over 80 years before the first modern computers were invented, let alone digital photography and cameras).

    The date aside, thanks again for your valued input on the subject. I would strongly recommend that people heed Mr. Wendt's advice. I too use the CD-1000 for my work about 70% of the time, but on really important cases (involving fatalities or very large losses), I still like to back up my case with 35mm standard photographs.
    -----------------------------------
    Chris Bloom
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    Central Point, Oregon
    541-664-6595

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    Chris;

    Maybe the confusion was in my sarcasm about the date. I know, nobody can believe that I would actually be sarcastic.

    We are looking at purchasing another digital camera. The Sony website no longer has the CD-1000 listed on it. The two other cameras on their site that use the CD technology have a higher resolution, but lack some of the other features (like the 20X digital zoom) that made the CD-1000 so attractive. I don't know if they plan on coming out with another higher end camera, but I thought I'd pass this along.

    George

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    Thumbs up

    Thanks for the information George. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

    Chris
    -----------------------------------
    Chris Bloom
    CJB Fire Consultant
    Central Point, Oregon
    541-664-6595

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    Bob, George, et al

    My department recently started using the Sony CD 200 Mavica camera's and so far I am very impressed about the results.

    Just to address some of the points made.

    Bob
    I am very impressed with the equipment and procedures you are using. I have some of the same equipment sitting on my shelf right now, all personally owned.

    Unfortunately my department requires that I use issued gear both for uniformity and court reporting. If the department issued the gear it is recognized as issue and is usually not questioned.

    Also, most or our officers, even after training are not the greatest at taking photos, 99% of our photography as taken by them is acceptable. If we need something more definitive we call in the state crime lab photog's. I am pretty sure that most other agencies have similar problems.

    George

    Our chain of evidence is handled by using the CD 200 non re writable disk. When we are done taking the pictures we run a "finalize" command and cannot edit (other than delete) any of the images we take.

    The disk is the small CD type that we can get for about 1.00 apiece. With the amount of pictures we take that is going to be a major cost savings for our department.

    While we have not had a challenge yet I am 99/9% certain that all pictures taken and used with the CD as evidence will pass the courts.

    At this time it appears that this dinasour is being led into the 21st century. I'll let you know as we get more involved with this program.

    Kevin

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    Question

    Kevin,
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post...
    I guess I'm a little lost on how which (whose) equipment was used to take a photo could be an issue in court... Does that mean that if your department issued you cheap disposable cameras, those photos would have more weight in court than photos taken with a good SLR? In reality, as long as the photo was an accurate representation of the facts (which the photographer would testify to), then the camera shouldn't matter.
    Has there ever been a successful challenge in court to photos based on whose equipment was used?

    Bob, CFEI

    Originally posted by Safety1


    Bob
    I am very impressed with the equipment and procedures you are using. I have some of the same equipment sitting on my shelf right now, all personally owned.

    Unfortunately my department requires that I use issued gear both for uniformity and court reporting. If the department issued the gear it is recognized as issue and is usually not questioned.

    Also, most or our officers, even after training are not the greatest at taking photos, 99% of our photography as taken by them is acceptable. If we need something more definitive we call in the state crime lab photog's. I am pretty sure that most other agencies have similar problems.


    Kevin

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    Bob

    Our department policy is to only allow issued equipment to be used during our investigations so that we have our own internal chain of evidence.

    This resulted from a couple of incidents with attorney's challenging our officers on the use of equipment. We have a training policy covering all of our equipment, one attorney FOI'ed our training manual and used that information to throw mud at the officers use of specialized equipment.

    While the issue did not result in the evidence being thrown out it did lead to a rather distressing experience for the officer.

    The best defense for some solicitors is when you can't attack the case you attack the officer. That is what happened in this situation.

    So.........the order came down - Use issued equipment only.

    Actually that's not so bad.

    We have great officers, it's just that some of us don't do so well with camera's. We don't have dedicated evidence tech's, that's why we call in the pro's when needed if possible.

    More to follow in private E Mail

    Kevin

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    Default Digital SOP's

    Our agency is currently looking into purchasing digital cameras for all investigators to use. We are trying to locate anyone that would be willing to share any Standard Operating Procedures they may have for use of digital cameras on fire scene investigations.

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