Former film student reviews video for Berrien County prosecutors

Posted at 10:49 AM, Sep 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-16 10:49:59-04

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — When Jacob Hughes majored in film, he wasn’t expecting to put his college degree to use in a prosecutor’s office.

But since early December 2017, he’s done just that. Hughes spends his days in the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office sorting through video that will be used in court.

“The feedback has been consistently positive,” Prosecutor Michael Sepic said. He said that over the past couple of years, the assistant prosecutors have become increasingly overwhelmed with the amount of video they needed to sort through in preparing for their assigned cases.

Smart phones, surveillance cameras, squad car video and police body cameras have resulted in an ever-growing volume of video. Now, the assistant prosecutors can hand the video over to Hughes to review and redact certain parts so they can focus on other aspects of preparing their cases for court, the Herald-Palladium reported.

Hughes takes out sensitive or personal information that is not needed in court. Sepic said, for example, a police body camera recording an interview inside the home of a neighbor who may have witnessed a crime might show valuables such as a large screen television. Hughes can blur such parts of a video to protect the neighbor’s privacy and security. He also can redact personal information such as addresses and phone numbers, and in some cases blurs faces. He also can take out sound that is not relevant to a case.

Hughes said he can spend as little as 30 minutes or as much as four hours reviewing video footage, depending on the length of video and nature of the case.

Sepic said the amount of video coming into the prosecutor’s office will only grow, especially now that all county sheriff’s deputies will wear body cameras throughout their shifts. He said the overwhelming amount of footage for prosecuting attorneys to review is a problem everywhere, and Berrien County is at the forefront in hiring a person such as Hughes.