Indiana State students gain skills in video forensics
Indiana State University students who were recently sworn in as digital forensic investigators for the Vigo County Prosecutor’s Office participated in hands-on training Friday that will equip them with skills necessary to carry out their work with law enforcement this year.
Students and ISU faculty with the School of Criminology & Security Studies were joined by area law enforcement officials for forensic video training conducted by Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association, or LEVA. Training encompassed topics and skills labs on image analysis techniques including image enhancement, photo video comparison, image stabilization and digital video recovery.
Carla Morales, ISU senior, said the training will provide her with a range of experience that not many people have a chance to gain.
“As an undergrad, I’m super excited for this opportunity that will expand my knowledge and skills and broaden my horizons to learn more about the techniques used in video and audio forensic analysis,” she said.
Gary Shook, captain of the Terre Haute Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Unit, said that the University of Notre Dame is currently working with law enforcement agencies in both Tippecanoe and St. Joseph counties on video forensics techniques and that was a model of inspiration for the collaboration with ISU and local law enforcement.
“We’re way behind the times with where video forensics is at and this is our chance to become up to date with current technology and allow our department to climb to the top of the food chain in collecting, preserving and presenting video evidence,” he said. “So these students are going to become real assets to the department.”
John Moats, Lieutenant with Vigo County Sheriff’s Department in charge of the Criminal Investigation Unit, said, “The training these students are receiving today will help us to expedite receiving and providing information that we would normally have to route through another avenue, such as the Indiana State Police, in order to present the information to the prosecutor.”
Rob Roberts, chief deputy prosecutor of Vigo County, said this collaboration is a “perfect marriage” that will allow his office to utilize resources it’s never had at its disposal.
“Court room testimony is the most requested area of expertise in our judicial process. We have a tremendous need for digital technology professionals and with this collaboration, we’re creating expert witnesses by providing them with real-life training resources with cutting-edge technology that will help them to help local law enforcement ensure that justice is served,” Roberts said.
“LEVA focuses on how the right technology can be used to solve cases,” said Jan Garvin, LEVA’s executive director. “We stress the value of agencies integrating forensic video analysis into their investigative arsenals.”
Garvin said LEVA instructs in a way that follows best practices that teach students how to properly recover, collect, analyze and process evidence and to be confident in testifying in court with a desirable outcome that could often be a life or death situation. With four levels of training and two certifications, LEVA is recognized as a global standard by video forensic professionals.
“The proliferation of video forensics is extraordinary,” Garvin said. “It’s more important now than ever to have people who know how to use the tools and applications for each specific situation so that law enforcement and prosecutors won’t be embarrassed during trials.”
LEVA has classes for beginner to advanced users in a range of areas such as image stabilization, frame averaging, automatic image tracking, time lapse and real-time video analysis.
Roberts said that once these students complete this training and degrees at ISU, they will be in such high demand that the sky will be their only limit.
“Our first graduate is now director of a digital forensics lab with a law enforcement agency in Illinois,” said Bill Mackey, ISU instructor of cyber criminology. “Another one is an assistant instructor here at ISU who decided to earn his master degree in cyber crime.”
Mackey said that the program started with 20 students four years ago and has since grown to include about 80 students with accomplished partnerships with several major players that include LEVA and local law enforcement.
“A lot of praise goes to everybody around the table. It’s not often that you get such inter-departmental cooperation amongst people who care so deeply about the success of a program that they are willing to take a leap of faith to make it happen,” said Mackey.