25.00.051              DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY        (CALEA 83.2.2)

All digital cameras used for crime scene photography shall be operated according to the manufacturer's guidelines and within the policies and procedures of the Bellevue Police Department.  

The introduction of digital photography into crime scene processing saves time while permitting the preservation of evidence with quality photographs.  The goal in digital image photography is to maintain the original file in a lasting form so that the photographer can state that each  photograph is a fair and accurate representation of the crime scene at the time the photograph was taken.   

Definitions  

Digital Storage Media:  can be "compact flash" or “flash memory” cards, also referred to as "Picture Cards”, "Smart media", or “SD Cards,”  and are like a reusable  roll of film.  

CD-R/DVD-R: Stands for Compact Disk, Recordable/Digital Video Disk, Recordable.  These are write once, read many times, compact disks. The format allows data to be written to the disk only one time. Optically stored data on a CD can be corrupted by scratches, light, moisture and heat.

Card Reader:  A device that can be connected to a desktop computer that accepts a digital storage media card.  This device and associated software transfers photographs from the digital storage media to another, permanent storage media such as CD-R or DVD-R.

Photographer:  The employee (officer, detective crime scene photographer, other designee) responsible for taking  digital  photographs at the crime scene.

Use of a Digital Camera

v      Every employee issued a Department digital camera will be familiar with its operation and will ensure that the camera is maintained in operational condition at all times.

v      The digital camera utilizes digital storage media instead of a roll of film.  Three flash cards will be issued with the cameras.  Extra cards will be issued on a case-by-case basis.

v      Photos taken in .jpg format will be taken using the digital camera’s highest resolution setting.

v      If the digital camera has the ability to take photographs in .tiff or RAW format or another loss-less format, the camera will be set to use this format to ensure the highest quality data capture.

v      If the digital camera has a setting that permits a date and time stamp to be placed on the photo, this feature should be turned off prior to taking photographs. This will prevent the stamp from overlaying a part of the photo that may be of evidentiary value.

Preservation of Digital Photographs and Print Film

v      To ensure data integrity, prior to using  a digital flash card, the card will be reformatted in the camera by the photographer.

v      Digital photos shall not  be deleted from the flash card until processing is completed by the Crime Lab and master images transferred to a CD/DVD for permanent storage. 

v      If an investigation involves a dangerous felony, or if a supervisor requests permanent flash card storage for the master photo set, the flash card may become the primary storage media for preserving  digital photographs and will be booked as evidence in accordance with existing procedures. This should be considered as an option to preserve digital photographs from a dangerous felony investigation or an unsolved crime where adjudication or other needs require preservation for a decade or longer.

v      Recognizing the need to view  photographs as soon as possible, nothing in this procedure prevents the photographer from downloading photos from the digital storage media to a computer/network folder.

v      Prior to downloading photos to a computer/network file folder, the photographer shall ensure that the digital media “Lock” switch is in the “on” position to prevent accidental erasure of the photographs. 

v      Photographs should not be opened on a computer until after they have been saved to a computer/network.

v      Upon completion of a crime scene photo shoot, and transferring a copy of the photographs to a computer/network file folder, when necessary, as explained above, the photographer will book the flash memory card into evidence.  The “Lock” switch on the card should remain in the “on” position. 

v      The photographer shall document in the case report or follow-up report that a digital camera was used.  The photographer will indicate the camera brand name, model number, serial number, the description of the photographs (i.e. victim, crime scene, physical evidence), the number of photographs taken, and that the flash memory card lock was activated prior to booking the card into evidence or downloading a working copy to a computer/network folder.

v      The photographer is responsible to maintain working copies of photographs in a secure manner.  Photographs may be stored on the City’s network, using the photographer’s access to their personal “F-Drive.” 

v      The Department’s Crime Lab shall be responsible for copying photographs into print or a digital disk (CD-R/DVD-R) format.

Department Crime Lab Digital Image Processing

The Department’s Crime Lab operates a digital photo processing lab capable of processing both film and digital photographs. 

v      The Crime Lab’s photo processing technician will utilize the lab processing machine to burn digital images from the storage media to a CD-R or DVD-R upon request.

v      Images submitted to the lab on a digital media card will be processed as requested.  Unless the card is to be used for permanent photo storage, the card will be returned to the photographer upon creation of a master CD/DVD containing the photographs from the card.  The card must be reformatted in the camera prior to its next use.

v      All photographic media must be submitted as evidence to the Property Room prior to any processing action being initiated by the Crime Lab, except as stated below.   All requests for processing will be submitted in writing to the attention of the Crime Lab Manager.  The request will be specific and unambiguous in its content.  Upon receipt of a request, lab personnel will retrieve the media from the Property Room, execute chain of custody documentation and secure the evidence in the photo lab section of the Crime Lab.

v      Exceptional circumstances may exist that require urgent processing to facilitate a criminal investigation.  If an urgent requirement for processing occurs during or after normal business hours, on holidays or weekends, chain of custody will be established directly between the requesting officer/detective and the Crime Lab.  This chain of custody will be used for subsequent Property Room submission.

v      In the lab, the media will be processed in accordance with the requesting officer’s written specifications.  Prints and/or CD will be produced accordingly and delivered to the requesting officer / detective.  A master,  CD-R/DVD-R of the images will be created by the photo lab technician.

v      Following processing, the master CD-R/DVD-R will be sealed in the evidence envelope that originally contained the recording media.  Chain of custody documentation will be executed and attached, and the evidence will be returned to the Property Room.  To ensure accuracy in Property Room record keeping and bar coding requirements,  a highlighted notation will be included on the chain of custody form indicating the evidence envelope content change from recording media to master CD-R.

v      When film processing is requested, prints from the developed negatives will be delivered to the requesting officer / detective.  Following print development the negatives will be sealed in the evidence envelope originally containing the film cassette.  Chain of custody documentation will be executed and attached and the evidence returned to the Property Room.  To ensure accuracy in Property Room record keeping and bar coding requirements, a highlighted notation will be included on the chain of custody form indicating the evidence envelope change from film cassette to film negatives.

v      Only  high-quality CD-R or DVD-R disks will be used for storage of master file images.

v      The employee will not take crime scene, collision scene or other investigative photographs with personally owned image capturing devices unless it is an emergency and no department issued camera is available. 

If the photographs are taken with a department issued smart phone/iPad/tablet or because of an emergency with a personally owned image capturing device, the photographs must be placed on a CD-R/DVD-R and entered into evidence in accordance with this policy.  The photographer will document the condition in which the photographs were taken and that no alterations (or retouching) were made to the photographs prior to being placed into evidence. 

v      At no time will any digital images be used for personal purposes without authorization from the Chief.  Digital photographs will not be disseminated unless necessary for an official investigation or when used for department training with the approval of a supervisor.