Last week, the story of parents who had their baby seized by police went viral. Video shows Sacramento Police Department officers entering the home of Anna and Alex Nikolayev without a warrant and saying they were going to "grab" the baby and advising the parents not to resist or fight. The Russian couple's lawyer though believes law enforcement and child protective services overstepped their bounds.
Now imagine how difficult this portion of the case could be without video evidence. Image if the video and pictures of police taking the baby away were deleted.
Carlos Miller, who runs the Photography Is Not a Crime blog, has had content on his recording equipment deleted a couple times by law enforcement, he believes. And he has a message for those who have had pictures or video deleted by cops or accidentally by themselves: "It doesn't completely disappear."
In fact, Miller last year was acquitted from all charges after he was able to recover deleted video showing he was not resisting arrest or breaking any other laws. He is now trying to obtain enough evidence to bring a case against the Miami police department and the individual he believes wrongfully took his camera and deleted its content.
Everything Miller learned about recovering deleted images and video was self-taught from the Web and help from a tech friend. The most important thing to know, he said, is to not take any more photos or video if you believe your content has been deleted.
"Once you realize that video has been deleted, put your camera aside and figure out a way to recover it," he said.
There are programs that can help you recover such content. Pictures are easier to get back than video due to the size.
For photos stored on Millers Sandisk memory card, the program recommended that he used is RescuePro. Video was a bit tricker because it took longer to sift through all the recovered content to find the portions he was looking for, but he used the program PhotoRec.
Just recently Alex Heid with Federal Jack and HackMiami went through this process when his own video, which deleted allegedly by Miami police upon his arrest. He details in this video how he recovered his footage:
Even better than going through any of this process though is to not put yourself in a situation where your footage could be deleted in the first place. The easiest way to protect against this is by password protecting your phone, which is the device Miller said the average citizen would likely be using to film or take pictures these days.
Another recommendation Miller had was to consider using an app that would automatically begin transferring pictures and video into cloud storage. On a PINAC forum is a discussion on just these types of programs.
One user with an Android phone suggests Bambuser and Dropbox.
"Dropbox will automatically upload video (or pictures) when off button is pushed or recording stopped. Just make sure the app is running in the background. Not live streaming, will only upload after recording stopped," rick wrote. "Bambuser is live streaming and will continue to record and upload even after off button is pushed. Unsent data is saved to phone and can be uploaded later to complete video record. As always, test these apps under different situations and know their ins and outs."
Dropbox, another user cautions though, won't upload video on iOS devices unless the user is connected to WiFi, but it will do so through a data package on Android.
So, whether you accidentally hit the trash button or if your photos and video were purposefully deleted, these are methods you can recover or preserve your data.
Miller's ultimate goal is to change a mentality he thinks some officers have when it comes to "creating their own truth."
"Cops have to rethink that they can't just create their own truth anymore," Miller said.
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