Thomas C. Christenberry, Director of Public Safety Education, School for Adult Learning, University of Indianapolis
or many television viewers and forensic science enthusiasts, shows like CSI and the spin-off television shows CSI: Miami and CSI: New York are fun to watch and, with their various characters and story lines, continue to fascinate viewers of all demographics. Viewers anxiously marvel at the forensic technology, the latest scientific methodology, and the amazing deductive skills of the forensic specialist. Best of all, the whole case is completed in just one hour.
Well, forensic magic does not normally occur in the span of a onehour TV drama; instead, it takes many hours, days, and weeks of painstaking science. A significant part of the scientific process is the extensive training associated with the field of video forensics—that is where the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA) and its strategic partnership with the University of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana, come in.
The University of Indianapolis and LEVA signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) in fall 2006 to establish a Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Laboratory for the specific purpose of training law enforcement personnel with the most sophisticated and up-to-date technology in the field of forensic video analysis. The laboratory was officially opened in January 2007 and since that time, LEVA has conducted more than 23 classes, with six more classes scheduled for 2010.
The LEVA lab is virtually dedicated to training. Any requests from the public and private sector to use the lab for evidence processing are referred to local law enforcement agencies or specified LEVA-trained forensic video experts. However, the lab can be converted into a video processing center during a national emergency if a massive amount of video needs to be examined. In such a case, LEVA-certified analysts and technicians would populate the lab around the clock to assist law enforcement.
The Concept of a Training Facility Develops
The early LEVA training was conducted at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Academy at Quantico, Virginia; then, in fall 2004, LEVA forged a partnership with the University of Indianapolis to host the forensic video analysis training in ad hoc classrooms at the university. This initial partnership required that LEVA ship all the various technical equipment to the university and then assemble it during the weekend before the class began. Law enforcement students were required to work on systems with different versions of the required software. The university and LEVA began to discuss the feasibility of establishing a permanent home on the university campus with state-of-the art equipment and the latest versions of the software.
LEVA had other partners who shared the vision of creating such a unique training facility. The actual non-linear, digital editing systems were leased from Massachusetts-based Avid Technology, Inc., and the highly specialized software with the forensic tools was purchased from Ocean Systems in Maryland.
In January 2007, the Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Laboratory was the culmination of that vision and dedicated effort of all its partners. From the perspective of LEVA, it was extremely important to have a permanent lab facility to conduct its training programs and to use the latest in audiovisual teaching equipment. One such technology is the use of the RoboTel system, which allows the instructor to interact individually or with a group of students at the workstations. From the instructor’s point of view, the ability to observe and provide specific direction to students on their projects from the instructor’s station is invaluable to the learning process. The integration of the permanent facility offered the ability to incorporate the most upto-date technology at the learning stations with the large data storage capabilities of the Avid LANshare server. The permanent facility allowed for regular system upgrades and the installation of peripheral training equipment.
A significant benefit for LEVA is the academic association with the University of Indianapolis. LEVA developed three core courses: Level 1 – Forensic Video Analysis and the Law, Level 2 – Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing, and Level 3 – Advanced Forensic Video Analysis and the Law. Each of the core courses has been reviewed by the University of Indianapolis’s School for Adult Learning, which approved the awarding of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for successful completion of the courses.
Some students request university credit for the courses completed, and the University of Indianapolis has approved these core courses for credit. Furthermore, students who successfully complete LEVA’s Level 1, 2, and 3 courses are conferred as LEVA Certified Forensic Video Technicians. They can progress to the level of LEVA Certified Forensic Video Analyst with additional training and demonstrated competence.
Over the past three years, the Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Laboratory has been a tremendous asset to the University of Indianapolis. The development generated an increased interest and funding for the university curriculum, as well as provided a stateof-the-art training facility used by faculty, staff, and students. On the day of the dedication and opening of the lab, the university received funding from a benefactor who directed the funds to be used to provide education and training for those involved in the criminal justice and forensic programs. For example, one student enrolled in the criminal justice program was able to attend the Level 1 – Forensic Video Analysis and the Law and successfully complete the course. Several faculty members also have requested to participate in some of the upcoming LEVA core courses.
The funding also enabled the establishment of LEVA mini-grants for faculty and staff to conduct specific projects in the lab. The lab has been used extensively by the Communication Department faculty in the development of public service projects and other television and radio projects.
The lab continues to generate excitement and interest in the surrounding community, with requests for use coming from professional associations, corporate risk management personnel, private security, and schools. Secondary and elementary school students are interested in the “wow” factor and a potential career in forensic science. On October 15 through October 18, 2009, the 40th Bouchercon World Mystery Convention held its event in Indianapolis and the group scheduled several attendee tours of the Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Laboratory. Corporate security personnel also are interested in the training and the use of the forensic video analysis systems.
Finally, the strategic partnership forged by LEVA and the University of Indianapolis has been a tremendous success. LEVA has found a permanent home with the needed technological support while the university has been able to expand its learning opportunities for faculty, staff, and students. For more information about LEVA, visit www.leva.org and for more information about the University of Indianapolis, visit www.uindy.edu. ■
Please cite as:
Thomas C. Christenberry, "Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Laboratory - Training," The Police Chief 77 (March 2010): 62–63,
http://policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=2041&issue_id=32010 (insert access date).