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Safeguarding Your Digital Evidence Data

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Learn the key storage capabilities needed to ensure your digital video evidence retains maximum evidentiary weight and admissibility in court.
Safeguarding Your Digital Evidence Data

As law enforcement agencies increasingly incorporate dashboard-mounted and body-worn cameras as part of their regular law enforcement duties, the total volume of evidentiary video footage requiring long-term storage will exponentially grow. For example, if a department has 200 officers and each activates his/her camera for only one hour per shift (a very conservative estimate), the average amount of video needing storage each year would reach 33TB[1].

These figures will likely grow even higher, as current usage trends are moving towards more video recording, not less. What’s more, every frame of video must be kept because it is all potentially valuable evidence. Indeed, the merits of digital evidence are widely recognized; in a survey of prosecutors by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), 93 percent of respondents rated video evidence as an effective tool for prosecutors, and the majority reported that it enabled a reduction in the time they actually spend in court.

As the table above illustrates, storage capacity requirements can rapidly mushroom depending on such factors as the number of officers and vehicles equipped with cameras, the number of hours each camera is in operation, the length of time each video must be retained, etc.

Number of Police Officers (generating 1 hour of video per shift) Estimated Video Storage Capacity
(required per year)
100 17TB
200 33TB
400 66TB
600 99TB
800 132TB
1000 165TB
1200 198TB
1400 231TB

Safeguarding Your Digital Evidence Data

Beyond the greater storage capacity that video surveillance footage demands, police departments and other law enforcement agencies are equally challenged by the manner in which electronic evidence must be stored.The U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence (CFR 28, 29) encompass an extensive range of requirements for the protection of evidentiary data in order to ensure its admissibility in court. The key admissibility criteria from the Federal Rules are dependent on ease of use, quality, reliability, security, and integrity of the recording device and the software storage and management system where the video recording is stored.

In short, storage solutions used to retain evidentiary video must address such legal considerations as:

  • Quality and Reliability
  • Security, Anti-Tampering and Audit Trail
  • Chain of Custody

Quality and Reliability

The evidentiary weight of digital evidence can be compromised by improper and/or unregulated data handling practices. Ensuring the quality and reliability of video evidence begins at its capture and extends to the process of transferring that evidence into a secure archive storage solution; such a solution is required because it is specifically designed to meet the stringent legal requirements for the proper storage of evidentiary data.

For example, an archive storage solution must be able to maintain a clear chain of custody (see Digital Chain of Custody, below) for video footage—from its initial ingestion into the archive all the way through to its long-term retention (using policy-based rules to ensure compliance with regulatory standards for data handling)—in order to maintain the video footage’s full evidentiary value.

Security, Anti-Tampering and Audit Trail

To guarantee the integrity of its surveillance video files, a secure archive should create a unique “fingerprint” of each file when it is ingested and when it is copied. These fingerprints enable the archive to periodically audit the integrity of each file against its original fingerprint, in order to confirm the data has not been changed (due to silent data corruption, disk error, virus, tampering or replication error).

Should the audit report a corrupted file, the archive can automatically replace it with its undamaged, original copy. This fingerprinting, combined with capabilities such as audit trails and user-created data retention and destruction rules, ensures video evidence contained in the secure archive solution complies with rigorous regulatory standards for admissibility of evidence.

Security, Anti-Tampering and Audit Trail

Digital Chain of Custody

A digital chain of custody must provide the following proof:

  • Any digital evidence offered in court is the same evidence collected or received by law enforcement
  • The time and date the evidence was received or transferred to another provider is accurately retained
  • No tampering with the item occurred while it was in custody
  • All copies of data no longer needed have been securely destroyed

Storage AwardsIn June 2015, Nexsan Assureon was honored with the “Archiving & Compliance Product of the Year” award in the Storage Awards hosted by Storage Magazine.

Assureon Details

Recommended Storage Solution


Assureon™ Secure Storage: A purpose-built secure archive solution, Assureon combines seamless scalability to handle your growing capacity needs with a full suite of data security features that meet regulatory requirements and maximize your surveillance videos’ evidentiary weight and admissibility in court. And unlike some cloud-based solutions (which costs up to 30 times more), Assureon ensures you keep local control of data management and in better control of your budget.

Law Enforcement

City of Bryan: Nexsan Assureon archive storage solution supports law enforcement department’s in-car video program, providing both primary and backup storage – all in the same box.

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