LEVA’s FVA Certification Process

I received my Forensic Video Analyst Certification from LEVA at their annual conference last week. A few weeks ago I posted a survey about certifications in FVA and Photography. The responses to that survey showed quite a number of misconceptions. And, since LEVA’s process is fresh in my mind, I decided to post about their process.

First, let me state that I also hold certifications in Forensic Video Examination and in Forensic Photography and Imaging from the International Association for Identification. Their process is also an excellent one, but I am specifying the LEVA certification today.

One misconception about LEVA that I’d like to clarify is that it is only open to law enforcement personnel. This isn’t the case. I didn’t even join LEVA until I was no longer working for a police agency. LEVA has an associate membership for non-LE. Their conferences, classes, and certifications are open to non-LE. They do charge more to non-LE for most of their classes (which is a policy I disagree with) but they are all open to civilians.

The process is a long a challenging one. They require that an analyst works in the field of Forensic Video Analysis, has had 88 hours of training in FVA, and passes a board. Actually, the 88 hour requirement is more than 88 hours, as one has to complete and pass the LEVA Level 1, 2, and 3 classes which total 120 hours plus the LEVA Photographic/Video Comparison course. That’s an additional 40, which brings the total to 160 hours.

With each of the LEVA courses, there are a minimum of two tests – a written test on the material covered, and a practical test. In some cases there are additional tests, for instance the Level 2 course also has an oral test. Each course is chock-full of great material that anyone working in FVA should know. Level 1 covers the foundations, which include basic technician practical exercises, a section on ethics, another on basic legal aspects as they apply to video evidence, issues about basic terminology from the definition of Forensic Video Analysis to spatial and temporal compression, pixel aspect ratio, file formats and codecs, etc. This class is a big surprise for many because some people fail. LEVA makes it very clear that tests will be given, and that some will fail. The same holds true for every LEVA class – these courses are not excuses to get out of town and socialize – they are serious educational opportunities, with full days of serious classes, and with evenings spent in study groups. Level 2 primarily covers issues with DVRs and NVRs, and using best practices in the acquisition of video evidence. In Level 3, the participants are given a case in which they have to properly acquire the evidence, perform a full analysis, write a report, and present the case in a moot court. Most of the students work in the evenings on their cases, as well as the allotted time during the day.

Once one makes it through these courses, one feels a sense of accomplishment. After also completing any remaining training, one needs to submit a case to the LEVA certification board. Applicants are provided with a mentor who can help guide the applicant through the process, review the case, make suggestions, etc. Then, the applicant submits that case to a gatekeeper who reviews the case and determines if the case meets the criteria for boarding. If it does, then the candidate meets before the four-member board for approximately 40 minutes during the LEVA Conference. The board members consist of three analysts and one attorney. The board members can ask questions about the case, your methodology, your conclusions, technical issues, and also about things that you should know as a certified forensic video analyst. One feels pressure at this boarding, and the candidate is well aware that the board members know the answers to the questions that they are asking – one cannot fake their way through this process.

This year there were eleven candidates for certification. Six passed, the other five have the option to try again in a year.

This process is a long and challenging one. Completing it is an accomplishment in itself. I learned something in each and every course I took and through the boarding process itself. Participating was a privilege. Passing was an honor. This certification has a lot of meaning, and I am proud to have earned it.

I’ll close this post by thanking all of those who have given of their time to LEVA as certification board members, executive board members, instructors, lab assistants, etc. The field of forensic video analysis is better because of you. Thank you!

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