Archive for the ‘Certification’ Category

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!

LEVA Level 3 Training

I just got home from taking the LEVA (Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association) Level 3 Course at the University of Indianapolis. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve taken a class through LEVA and this class reminded me of how great their training is!

I have previously mentioned the importance of training, and I try to attend at least one course every year. The Level 3 Course is very appropriate for all forensic video analysts to take, and it properly requires prerequisites of Level 1, 2, and the Video/Photographic Comparison classes. There is some quick review of concepts from those workshops, updates on legal cases involving video evidence (a case I worked on was discussed), then we are given a previously adjudicated case to work. We get two-and-one-half days to analyze the evidence, form an opinion, write a report, and prepare court charts. Then the testing begins. Our cases are presented in a Moot Court, with a Forensic Video Analyst (Scott Kuntz) and a Prosecuting Attorney (Jonathan Hak) questioning our evidence, our techniques, methodology, etc. There is also a written test, a practical test, and a comparison exercise to complete.

The course is complete, testing in mostĀ areas that a Forensic Video Analyst should be proficient in. The instruction is excellent. The casework is very representative of what I see in my business. And, the feedback is valuable. Any Forensic Video Analyst who hasn’t yet attended this course should sign up for the next offering as soon as they can. Any Forensic Video Analyst who hasn’t had any LEVA training at all is doing their agency or their clients a disservice.

Back from Qatar – A Great Experience

Mar 5th, 2014 - Filed under: Blog,Certification,Training

Well, I’m back from two weeks in Qatar, where I provided the State Security Bureau branch of the Ministry of Interior with some consulting and training services in forensic video, image, and fingerprint analysis – primarily with Adobe Photoshop. The experience was wonderful, and the personnel at the SSB were great to work with.

Most of the training and consulting I provide is in the US, with a smattering in Canada. Over the years I have also provided training in Australia and Singapore. These have all been wonderful experiences and I hope to do more. I invite members of the international forensics community to contact me if they have any needs in forensic video analysis, photographic analysis, or photography – I’d love the opportunity to come and provide some consulting and training.

I will be posting some photographs of this trip on my personal website – so far I’ve only posted some photos of the Museum of Islamic Art – but should get some others up in the coming week.

Expert Credentials

One of the first things that I get asked for when an attorney calls is a copy of my CV. An expert’s CV can tell you a lot, but when looking at a forensic photographer, photographic analyst, or video analyst, how should it be evaluated to make sure that you are getting a qualified expert? What should you be looking for on our CVs?

This week I’ll address work experience. In the coming weeks I’ll also discuss training, certifications, testimony experience, and some peripheral issues.

One thing to note is that there is a huge difference between the worlds of photography and video in the commercial world versus the forensics world. When searching for an expert, I would want someone with experience specifically in forensic or legal aspects of photography, or video analysis. Look at their work history and how many cases that they work in forensics. Ask how long they have worked in photography, photographic analysis, or video analysis; and what percentage of their work is forensic based. For me, I’ve been working in photography for over 30 years, and in forensics for over 20 years. I have fifteen years experience at a police department in the field of forensic photography, image analysis and video analysis.

Interestingly, the world of civil law and criminal law have their differences as well. I remember my first deposition in a civil case some eight years ago. It was unlike anything I had seen in the criminal cases I had worked. Your expert should understand their role in your case as well as the procedures regarding reports, depositions, court, etc.

The bottom line regarding experience – make sure your expert is experienced in their discipline, and also in the forensic application of that discipline. The workflow of the commercial photographer or post production video editor may be excellent in their own field, but may fall apart in a forensic environment.

Next week we’ll discuss what training to look for in your forensic video analyst, forensic photo analyst, or legal photographer.

Reflecting back on 2009

When I think about the past year, and cases I’ve worked, training I’ve received, training I’ve given, there are a few things that stand out.

In the arena of cases, I had two unique experiences – A Daubert Hearing in 12/08, and Grand Jury testimony in mid-2009.

The Daubert Hearing was on image authentication (are the images real, and do they represent real people and real events). That hearing was U.S. v. Frabizio in December of 2008, and was one of the few Daubert Hearings on photography, imaging, or image authentication. It was an interesting case, as it was going to its third trial. I was retained by defense counsel to analyze and interpret the government expert’s report and findings. I provided information to the defense attorney on this report, and attended the Daubert hearing, and answered her questions on his testimony. With the limited number of Frye and Daubert hearings on forensic photography, forensic image analysis, or image authentication, it was an interesting experience to participate in this hearing.

The Grand Jury testimony was also on an image authentication case. In this instance, I was an expert witness for the government. I have testified in cases since the early 1990s, but this was my first time to testify before a Grand Jury. It was quite interesting, as there is no judge, no defense attorney, and the accused is not present, nor is a case detective. It’s the prosecutor, a court reporter, the members of the grand jury, and the witness. In this case, I was impressed by the professionalism of the prosecutor and the members of the grand jury – I can imagine a situation in which a system without the formality or presence of a judge, defense attorney, etc. moving toward chaotic – I was pleased that this was far from the case.

As to training I received, it would be a toss up between two classes I took in the field of photogrammetry. One was on reverse projection photogrammetry that I posted about earlier. The other was a class in using Photomodeler (a software application for applying photogrammetry) for close range photogrammetry, presented by Dan Mills of DCM Technical Services. Photogrammetry is taking measurements from photos, and there are several approaches to this technology. Unfortunately, there are very few classes available in close range photogrammetry or in reverse projection photogrammetry. I was fortunate to get excellent training in each in 2009.

Regarding training that I provided – it’s difficult to isolate any one specific workshop. But, I did have the opportunity to give four workshops in digital photography to the San Francisco Police Department in 2009. That agency purchased Nikon D700 cameras for their crime scene investigators and wanted each member to be trained in the use of that camera for crime scene and evidence photography. I was proud to be the trainer they chose to provide this instruction. We held four, three-day sessions, with eight investigators in each session. It was a pleasure to work with this agency and to see their dedication to providing their front-line personnel with the tools and training to do their job.

Lastly, another highlight of 2009 was being appointed chair of the Forensic Photography and Imaging Certification Board of the International Association for Identification. It is an honor to have been chosen to fill this position, and our board is working hard on several projects.

The last year was successful in many ways – looking back at a few of the highlights helps see where we are today and prepare for the future. I’m looking forward to more interesting cases and great training opportunities in the coming year.


Certification in Forensic Photography and Imaging

I frequently read Jim Hoerrick’s excellent blog, Forensic Photoshop. In his October 12 post, he brought up the issue of certification, and it prompted me to comment on that topic here.

One of Jim’s points is that some certifications are not based on real world issues, and the correct test answers may be wrong when applied to the real world. Jim also mentioned that what he’s heard related to the certifications of theĀ International Association for Identification (IAI) is positive.

As the Chair of the Forensic Photography and Imaging Certification Board for the IAI, I thought it would be important to discuss a bit of our process. We have two parts to our testing for certification – a written test and a practical test.

The written test is based on two texts, that is intended to show if the applicant has the general knowledge of photography and imaging to meet the standard set by the IAI for certification. Our board reviews the texts and the questions every year to attempt to keep the test relevant with current technology and appropriate for the topic of forensic photography and imaging.

The practical test currently includes ten assignments, and requires that the applicant competently complete each of the assignments to pass. These assignments are as closely molded to real world assignments as we can make them. We are currently reviewing the assignments and the wording of them so that they continue to represent real world assignments, and so that the assignments are as clear and explicit as possible.

Our board is always looking for input and I invite anyone with input to contact me at any time.