Because they're so easily transmitted, digital images can also help bring cases to trial within 24 hours. And in many circumstances, the vividness of the injuries or of a crime scene showing overturned tables and smashed chairs, can convince a judge to set a higher bail for the alleged abuser.
By sharing the Olympus digital cameras with emergency room staff at local hospitals, it also adds another layer of corroborating evidence, Lucibello added. "When we go out to train the hospitals how to use the cameras we can do domestic violence training at the same time," she noted.
Dr. Lewis Kohl, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, called the donation of an Olympus camera and a printer to his hospital, via the Brooklyn D.A.'s office, "two wonderful things."
Kohl added, however, that there still is a learning curve in familiarizing his E.R. staff on how to use a digital camera and transmit images.
"It's not like using a 'PHD' or 'Push Here Dummy' camera. There are so many different variables," Kohl said. "But while it's clearly more difficult than a Polaroid, on the upside, it's incredibly more flexible."
You can say to a judge that a victim had a black eye, but unless you can show it, it often translates as she had a 'boo-boo.' With a digital image, it makes an enormous difference.
Brooklyn D.A.'s Office
Kohl said his staff has also had some difficulty with the software, which doesn't provide an easy, "all-in-one-solution" for saving and sending the images back to the D.A.'s office. With 5,000 emergency rooms across the country that could potentially use the technology, he was hopeful Olympus would create customized software suited for evidence gathering and transmission
Concerns Raised Over the Authenticity of Digital Images
Because digital images are so easily manipulated, some concerns have also been raised about the legitimacy of using them in criminal prosecution. Lucibello, however, said this hasn't really been an issue in domestic violence cases so far.
"The truth is that digital photographs can be authenticated in the same way that non-digital photographs are authenticated," she said. "A victim can look at it and back it up. A medical record can back it up. A police officer can back it up. All this happens with ordinary photography as well."
Chris Sluka, public relations manager for Olympus, said proving whether a digital image has been altered is not difficult. "With technology you can tell whether the image has been manipulated or not," Sluka said. "You just have to look at the file."
He added that the advent of digital photography in law enforcement circles proves that the technology is achieving mass acceptance. "It's beginning to reach its audience and the audience is interactive so it's reaching more and more new channels."
One new channel it already seems to have reached is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office. As PTN went to press, Mayor Bloomberg formally approved the use of digital photography to prosecute domestic violence cases in three more of the city's five boroughs. ptn