Force Science News #293:

3 keys for maximizing the value of video footage

In this issue:

 

I. 3 keys for maximizing the value of video footage

II. Renowned forensic psychologist's "Lessons Learned" for cops

III. WINx: New format for LE training debuts this fall

IV. "Rational, reasonable way" to answer the "whys" of OISs

 

I. 3 keys for maximizing the value of video footage

 

Getting maximum value from video of a controversial use-of-force encounter may require more than just viewing raw footage as it comes from the camera. In fact, three extra steps are often the keys that allow investigators and other interested parties to unlock critical secrets "hidden" in recordings that may not be evident at first glance, according to Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute.

 

Lewinski itemizes these as part of a new block of instruction on body cameras that's now included in the certification course on Force Science Analysis. They will also be explored in the wealth of unique instructional material in the special two-day course on body cams coming up at the Force Science Training Center in November. (That course is sold out but due to enthusiastic demand repeats are being scheduled and will be announced soon.)

 

"To fully understand the human dynamics and an officer's decision-making in a force incident you may need to take video apart frame by frame," Lewinski says. "That's true whether the footage is from a body camera, a dash cam, a security camera, a camcorder, or a cell phone. In fact, the more video you have from different sources, the better off you may be."

 

Here's the procedure he recommends:

 

1. Determine the frame rate. Video, which appears to record a continuous stream of action, is really a series of snapshots taken at timed intervals that vary radically among camera types. "Some dash cams film at 8 frames a second, some security cameras at 4 frames a second, body cams at about 30 frames a second--or a different snapshot every 1/30 of a second," Lewinski explains.

 

"When it comes to force dynamics," he says, "split seconds matter." Cameras with slow frame rates, for example, may actually miss recording critical moments of action.

 

In one case Lewinski analyzed, an officer was accused of excessive force for throwing an arrestee against the side of a car. The officer claimed the suspect tripped him, causing them both to fall against the vehicle. The security camera that captured the action recorded at only 4 frames a second, and Lewinski was able to establish from a second camera positioned at a different angle but also recording at 4 frames a second that the flick of the suspect's foot tripping the officer was fast enough that it occurred between frames and thus was not caught on the first camera.

 

"Knowing frame rates is also essential for accurately syncing footage from different cameras," Lewinski says. Computer programs are available for establishing speeds when camera ratings are unknown and for double-checking manufacturers' claims, he says.

 

2. Time-stamp all videos. "Free computer programs that can be downloaded from the Internet will impose time-stamps on digital video to one-hundredths of a second," Lewinski says. "When the recording is advanced or repeated frame by frame, the viewer can then more clearly see and understand just how incredibly fast action and reaction can occur in a force situation.

 

"A classic example is the mere flicker of time it takes a subject to turn from a face-on, threatening posture to a position of flight--much faster than an officer who had made the decision to shoot can possibly realize what has changed and prevent shooting the suspect in a different position. Being able to see that actually timed out on video can be a very powerful illustration.

 

"Time-stamping helps investigators analyze what happened in fractions of a second. We also strongly encourage that to fully analyze a video, key images be freeze-framed to clearly illustrate important moments and decision points."

 

3. Coordinate all available cameras. Time-stamping and frame-rating should lead to a syncing of images of an incident from all available cameras in a split-screen display. "Now," Lewinski says, "you have the ability to view the same precise moments of action from a variety of vantage points, matched to fractions of a second.

 

"Lighting may differ from camera to camera. Blurred images on one may be clear on another. Differences in angle may be revealing."

 

Lewinski recalls a case in which an officer was accused of smashing a suspect in the head with a closed fist. On poorly illuminated video from one camera, he looked guilty as charged. But other footage, synced frame to frame and benefitting from reflected light and a different angle, revealed that the officer actually had reached with an open hand to apply a cupping control technique to the back of the suspect's neck. "With that," Lewinski says, "he was able to challenge the accusation against him."

 

In summary, Lewinski told Force Science News, "Working with video recordings can be very complex but they can be critical to properly interpreting a use-of-force event. The world captured by video is not necessarily the sum total of reality. Investigators of officer-involved shootings need to know how to maximize the benefits of this increasingly prevalent tool and avoid its pitfalls. That's why we're focusing special training on this important subject."

 

Lewinski will offer more observations on video issues at the upcoming annual training conference of the Illinois Homicide Investigators Assn. On Oct. 21 he will conduct two three-hour sessions on "Force Science and Body Cameras," which will explore critical technological and human performance factors to keep in mind when analyzing video footage as part of an OIS investigation.

 

The conference will be held Oct. 19-21 at the Westin Hotel and Conference Center in Itasca, IL, a suburb of Chicago. For more information, contact the association at: ILHIA@comcast.net or check the group's website: www.ilhia.com

 

II. Renowned forensic psychologist's "Lessons Learned" for cops

 

Dr. Anthony Pinizzotto, internationally recognized former senior scientist and forensic psychologist with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, will present the third annual Lewinski Lecture at Minnesota State University-Mankato on Oct. 5.

 

Pinizzotto, an original member of the faculty for the certification course in Force Science Analysis, will describe "Lessons Learned from Street Officers" that have helped make police lives safer across the last 30 years.

 

During his long career with the FBI, Pinizzotto co-authored three landmark studies of felonious line-of-duty deaths that explored in depth the characteristics of cop killers/assaulters and their victims and helped police academies and agencies better tailor officer-survival training to the realities of the "deadly mix" on the street.

 

Today he serves as founder and president of Clinical Forensic Psychology Associates, a leading criminal justice and mental health consulting and training organization based in McLean, VA.

 

His free presentation will be at 11 AM in Ostrander Auditorium at MSU's Centennial Student Union. For more information, contact Dr. Colleen Clarke at: colleen.clarke@mnsu.edu

 

The Lewinski Lecture series, featuring speakers who are "conducting exceptional research and training in criminal justice," was established by MSU in honor of Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, who spent nearly three decades on the law enforcement faculty there.

 

III. WINx: New format for LE training debuts this fall

 

A former motor officer who has dealt one on one with more than 200 subjects determined to commit suicide from the Golden Gate bridge...

 

A lead investigator of the terrorist attack on the guided missile destroyer USS Cole...

 

The incident commander for the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shootout...

 

These are a few of the faculty for a training event that has been crafted with significant input from certified Force Science graduates and promises, in the words of its creators, to be "completely outside what law enforcement is accustomed to."

 

The intended audience is agency executives, trainers, and other "thought leaders" and key decision-makers who will be inspired by the presentations they experience and return home motivated to make changes within their organization and "work to move the law enforcement profession forward," according to Brian Willis, a certified Force Science Analyst and one of the event's driving forces.

 

The half-day program, called WINx: Inspiring Excellence in Law Enforcement, will debut Nov. 18 in Lisle, IL, a suburb of Chicago, with the hope of being repeated in other locales at dates yet to be determined. Force Science News readers are offered a discounted admission (see below).

 

Modeled on the popular TEDx productions, which present unique technology, entertainment, and design content for civilians, WINx will feature provocative 18-minute presentations by nine handpicked instructors, with extra time devoted to interaction with attendees.

 

Topics will include:

 

• How to seize control of "the narrative" during a crisis

• How to heighten awareness and employ effective intervention strategies to decrease law enforcement suicides

• Developing the right mindset for improving relationships within a police organization

• How to successfully mentor at-risk youths

• How to withstand tremendous pressures and triumph from a critical event

• Lessons learned for command personnel when an agency is pushed to its limits in the international spotlight

• How to use the WIN (What's Important Now) philosophy as a decision-making tool

• Adapting the Marine Corps "Combat Hunter" program to save law enforcement lives

• What the police profession needs to reinvent itself.

 

The program has taken shape through the collaborative efforts of Willis, founder of Winning Mind Training Inc., and his fellow FS grads Roy Bethge, deputy chief of the Buffalo Grove (IL) PD, and Chief Tim Janowick of the Mt. Prospect (IL) PD. Some presenters are also FS graduates.

 

"We need to start thinking differently about how we deliver training, how we address critical issues in our profession, and how we engage people from a leadership perspective," Willis says. "Through the fresh style and fresh insights of this program, we want to inspire people to take action toward those important goals."

 

For more information or to register for WINx, go to: www.experiencewinx.com. Note: By entering the code WINFS when you register, Force Science News readers will receive a $20 discount, courtesy of the WINx organizers.

 

IV. "Rational, reasonable way" to answer the "whys" of OISs

 

An independent journalist writing for a police union publication recently attended the Force Science Institute's popular two-day seminar on general Force Science principles and provides a useful analysis for agencies contemplating this unique training.

 

The report by Barbara Schwartz, who specializes in law enforcement issues, is posted on FSI's website. CLICK HERE to read it or visit: www.forcescience.org/houston.pdf Her article first appeared in the monthly Badge & Gun, issued by the Houston (TX) Police Officers' Union, the state's largest law enforcement labor organization.

 

The program Schwartz attended was presented under joint sponsorship by the union, the local DA, and two county sheriff's offices. Speakers were FSI executive director Dr. Bill Lewinski and prominent police attorney and Force Science instructor Bill Everett. Among attendees were attorneys from the union's legal team, homicide investigators from Houston PD, and members of the Citizens Review Board.

 

In two packed days, the team presented the critical legal, tactical, and human performance implications of FSI's groundbreaking research into the dynamics of "life-threatening, high-stress, rapidly unfolding" force encounters, Schwartz reports. While less intensive than the five-day certification course in Force Science Analysis, the two-day program covers highlights of key fundamental concepts that are explored in greater depth in the longer training.

 

As she details, topics ranged widely from how suspects can unintentionally be shot in the back to the little-known limitations of dash and body cameras to "brain blueprinting" to the physiological and psychological impacts on an officer's memory after a shooting to Hollywood-born myths that fuel misconceptions about police use of deadly force.

 

"If shooting teams have not seen this science, it can be detrimental to officers because inaccurate [conclusions] can be drawn," Schwartz quotes union president Ray Hunt. He said he found especially eye-opening "how quickly shots can be fired from a semi-auto and how fleeing suspects can remain threats to officer safety."

 

She quotes the impressions of others who experienced the program as well. Examples:

 

Atty. Bob Armbruster of the union legal team: "The training gives us scientific basis to explain officers' behaviors and reactions during stressful situations." Schwartz says, "He plans to use the information to educate those involved in shooting and use-of-force investigations and court proceedings."

 

Homicide Capt. Dwayne Ready: "Good information for anyone sitting in judgment of officers' actions, be it prosecutors, grand jury members, administrative staff, police executives, and jurors. It is important for people to understand what is happening in critical moments."

 

Homicide Sgt. Brian Harris: "As detectives, we are often asked to explain all the 'whys' [of an OIS]. This course gives us a rational and reasonable way to help answer those questions."

 

Schwartz reports that "In a day and age where officer involved shootings and use of force incidents are at the forefront of media reporting and court proceedings," DA Brett Ligon "could not pass up the opportunity" to bring Force Science training to his area.

 

In his opinion, Schwartz writes, Force Science research "is in its infancy." Ligon said that during the seminar, "he felt like he was courtside watching the future of where law enforcement training must trend."

 

In a pre-seminar interview, Schwartz asked Lewinski what changes he would make "if given free reign to revamp police academy training." His three-point response is covered in Schwartz report, posted at: www.forcescience.org/houston.pdf

 

For further information about the two-day Force Science program, including how to sponsor one in your area, contact FSI vice president Scott Buhrmaster at: scott.buhrmaster@forcescience.org. You can also contact the training staff at: training@forcescience.org

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.