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Applying psychological science to the CCTV review process: a review of cognitive and ergonomic literature

Abstract

As CCTV cameras are used more and more often to increase security in communities, police are spending a larger proportion of their resources, including time, in processing CCTV images when investigating crimes that have occurred (Levesley & Martin, 2005; Nichols, 2001). As with all tasks, there are ways to approach this task that will facilitate performance and other approaches that will degrade performance, either by increasing errors or by unnecessarily prolonging the process. A clearer understanding of psychological factors influencing the effectiveness of footage review will facilitate future training in best practice with respect to the review of CCTV footage. The goal of this report is to provide such understanding by reviewing research on footage review, research on related tasks that require similar skills, and experimental laboratory research about the cognitive skills underpinning the task. The report is organised to address five challenges to effectiveness of CCTV review: the effects of the degraded nature of CCTV footage, distractions and interrupts, the length of the task, inappropriate mindset, and variability in people’s abilities and experience. Recommendations for optimising CCTV footage review include (1) doing a cognitive task analysis to increase understanding of the ways in which performance might be limited, (2) exploiting technology advances to maximise the perceptual quality of the footage (3) training people to improve the flexibility of their mindset as they perceive and interpret the images seen, (4) monitoring performance either on an ongoing basis, by using psychophysiological measures of alertness, or periodically, by testing screeners’ ability to find evidence in footage developed for such testing, and (5) evaluating the relevance of possible selection tests to screen effective from ineffective screener

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