One of a kind: forensic video lab draws analysts from around the world

 

Australian Geoffrey Biggs was working for the Queensland Police Service in 2006 when celebrity wildlife expert Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin was fatally pierced by a stingray barb on the Great Barrier Reef—as cameras rolled.

“I was there with the coroner going through the video,” Biggs recalls, “and then we had to show it to the family, which was hard.”

Five years after that introduction to video analysis, Biggs is the only Australian certified as a forensic video technician—one who knows how to handle and review video evidence properly—but he had to fly to the University of Indianapolis for the five intensive courses required to achieve that level of expertise. Biggs is manager of the Electronic Recording Forensic Unit for Queensland Rail, which has 4,500 security cameras on its trains and 1,500 in its stations. Footage from the cameras is requested often for use in criminal and insurance investigations and court proceedings. To get his state-of-the-art training, Biggs followed the route taken by more than 1,000 other public-safety professionals and consultants from nearly every state in the union, Canada, South America, the Caribbean, Asia, and every corner of Europe—as well as representatives of the FBI, Secret Service, National Security Agency, U.S. Postal Service, Customs and Border Protection, and State Department.

He came to the only facility in the world that could provide the training: UIndy’s Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab. This high-tech classroom is where the international Law Enforcement & Emergency Services Video Association has set up shop to provide these important courses through a partnership with the University.

Digital enhancement
Better known as LEVA, the nonprofit corporation works to improve training and promote the latest technology in the analysis of video for crime prevention and investigation and other public safety applications, work that often involves digitally enhancing murky video footage to reveal hidden details.

“The facilities are world-class,” Biggs says.

LEVA began offering classes in 2000 at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., but space constraints and increasing security hurdles prompted the group to seek another site. The classes moved to UIndy in October 2004 through the work of longtime FBI special agent, academy instructor, and multimedia unit chief Tom Christenberry, who joined the UIndy faculty that year and now serves as director of strategic operations in the University’s School for Adult Learning. Finally, in 2007, 20 high-powered, dual-monitor digital video workstations were installed in UIndy’s Krannert Memorial Library to create the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to forensic video analysis training. Now the Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab hosts classes of varying levels several times each year.

“Having the LEVA program at UIndy adds academic integrity and credibility,” says Jan Garvin, the organization’s vice president for training. “Indianapolis is an ideal choice, being centrally located and easy to get around.”

A frequent instructor in the courses is Grant Fredericks, one of the nation’s most experienced practitioners and sought-after trial experts in the field of forensic video. Asked where else one can find this kind of training, he quickly summed up the options:
“Nowhere in the world.”