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“While my career didn’t follow a path that I could have in any way imagined, it’s definitely been a natural progression of technology and learning.”
Cameras don’t judge. They document. As a forensic video analyst with the Calgary Police Service, I study video images, frame by frame, to help reveal what they’ve captured: A guy in a grey hoodie with a cigarette burn on the left sleeve; a dark green minivan with decals on the back window representing a family of four and their cat; a woman’s hand with a French manicure. In everyday life, details like these tend to blend in. During a criminal investigation though, they differentiate one thing from another. And once they stand out they can be very convincing.
I use my technical skills to clarify the images caught on camera — to resize, adjust lighting or reduce colour noise. I might be asked to put together an edited timeline from video captured on multiple cameras, revealing the exact sequence of events. Objectivity is critical, and my approach methodical — clinical, really. It has to be.
The better I do my job, the less likely the case is to go to trial. Cameras don’t lie. After the video evidence is documented and shared pre-trial, the defense might change the plea. If the case proceeds to trial despite the evidence, and I’m called upon to provide expert testimony, I know my work could be the piece that helps remove any shadow of doubt.
While my career didn’t follow a path that I could have in any way imagined, it’s definitely been a natural progression of technology and learning. After working as an off-line editor at CFCN television I was hired as a civilian with the Calgary Police Service to edit operational training videos. A decade after that, video forensics was an up-and-coming field. With my skill set, it seemed like the perfect fit.
Some people love being on-air, on-camera, but that’s never been my thing. I prefer making a difference behind the scenes. The irony — that I now stand in court and provide expert testimony for the Crown in what can be high-profile cases — isn’t lost on me. My knees still tremble at the start, every single time. But when I begin to present my report to the court, a sense of calm washes over me.
I know the material inside and out. I’ve documented my work every step of the way. What I’m there to share with the court are the facts. I am always confident about that.
Text by Kathy McCaw | Photo by Brian Buchsdruecker