Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mugshot Capturing - NIST Best Practices

Mugshots are one of law enforcement's most important tools in cataloguing convict information as well as obtaining convictions for crimes. Whether they be jail mugshots, funny mugshots or just the creation mugshot database, this photographic evidence, once obtained, may be shared by departments across the country to identify a repeat offender in the same or another jurisdiction. Another important feature of mugshots, an increasing focus in today fiscal landscape, is their ability to be used for photographic arrays and lineups for victim and witness identification. Not only do lineup arrays employing mugshots save time and resources, they present these tools without individuals even knowing that they are suspects

The problem with mugshots' usage as a lineup tool lies with the uniformity of mugshots taken from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Whereas similar looking suspects presented in an unbiased photographic manner leads to identifications that can influence judges and juries, carelessly taken mugshots, mugshots with different lighting, different colored-backgrounds, disparate poses or aspect ratios may lead to bias in identifying perpetrators of crime - oftentimes leading to prosecutors determining that this type of evidence would be impermissible or worse the successful suppression of this type of evidence in courts of law. Thus, to create photographic arrays that consist of similar photographs fall into the hands of individuals making subjective decisions.

The NIST has developed the Best Practice Recommendation for the Capture of Mugshots. These practices, developed over the course of several years, were introduced in 1997 to mandate uniformity and consistency in mugshot taking. To create and maintain uniformity, NIST suggests standardization of the following photograph specifications:

Types of Poses
Depth of Field
Aspect Ratio
Minimum Number of Pixels
Color Space
Pixel Aspect Ratio
Compression Algorithm
File Format

Recently, to combat the disparate nature of mugshot-taking, many states have begun to employ the NIST standards of mugshot capturing. For instance, States such as Michigan, Indiana, New York and Virginia have implemented similar procedures on mugshot capture consistency. After all, if mugshots are different from user to user or department to department, their use as identification tool is practically worthless.

It is incumbent on other states and municipalities to begin following these standards. Even if you believe that complying with standardized guidelines for mugshot capturing is unnecessary, your mugshots may need to be utilized by another locality for identification purposes. As a law enforcement agency, do you want to jeopardize the conviction process in this way?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Campus Security - Updates to the Clery Act

On July 1, 2010, new regulations affecting campus security at institutions of higher learning took effect. These regulations address many areas, including changes to certain financial aid rules and regulations, changes to fire reporting requirements and file sharing. However, the most important changes that were implemented include updates to the reporting requirements and notifications under the Clery Act.

The Clery Act, formally known as the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, was named after Jeanne Clery, a 19 year old college student who was murdered in her dorm room in 1986. In the investigation, it was discovered that her school had either misreported or failed to report numerous instances of crime on her campus. The 1990 Act helped increase of awareness of crime on campus and as a result helped increase information-sharing and notification of issues.

Schools that receive or participate in federal funding programs must submit to its students and faculty Campus Safety and Security Reports detailing crimes, such as homicides, burglaries, aggravated assault, arson, etc. in and around campus. The Clery Act also requires campus security officials to maintain crime logs for several years, including a two month log immedately available to anyone who requests a copy, as well as timely reports if there is imminent threat. Failure to do so could result in thousands of dollars of fines per violation.

The 2010 regulations, originally issued by the Department of Education in October 2009, require additional reporting in these Campus Safety and Security Reports. These additions include the following:
  • Campus policies regarding law enforcement authority of campus security officials.
  • Details of relationships with local law enforcement.
  • Methods of incident reporting.
  • Description of processes that lead to notification of emergency situations.
  • Additional reporting of crimes if determined to be hate crimes.

If you suspect that your school/employer is not complying with these new requirements under the Clery Act, contact the regional office of the Department of Education that handles the state in which your school/employer is located. The regional office will then assist you and, more importantly, determine the next steps to take to ensure compliance.