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Job created in Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office to sort through video evidence

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- Smartphones, security cameras and body cameras have become so common that the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office became overwhelmed by video it needed to sort through to use in court.

“From a management perspective, I started hearing complaints about all the video that was coming in from the assistant prosecutors who are assigned cases,” said Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic.

Across the nation and across more of Berrien County each day, crimes and arrests are being caught on camera.

“Now, all of a sudden, with all of this video, the volume has just increased on what it takes for an assistant prosecutor to adequately prepare a case,” Sepic said.

Sepic said his assistant prosecuting attorneys, also known as ‘APAs,’ were drowning in video used for trials.

So last summer, Sepic asked the Berrien County Board of Commissioners for permission to hire someone who could focus on sorting through the video.

His request was approved and Jacob Hughes was hired in December as the resident AV specialist.

“A regular day would be, an APA will give me a video to work on – they’ll usually give me a week or so and say, ‘Here, watch and redact this,’” Hughes said. “And it could be anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours of footage.”

Hughes takes out sound that isn’t necessary, blurs out faces and more when needed, and is able to free up time for those APAs to make sure no stone goes unturned.

“If there’s something that might’ve been marginal, the assistant prosecutor might think, ‘Well, I’m not going to get that because I’m going to have to spend two or three hours working on it,’” Sepic said.

Sepic said jobs like this will likely show up in more prosecutors’ offices because the amount of video relevant for court is only growing.

“And people like me are necessary to be able to watch it and get through it so that the prosecutors can prosecute and do their jobs,” Hughes said.

Hughes was a film major in college.

While he said he never pictured himself working for a county prosecutor, he is kept very busy.

Hughes said he has had to go through as much as 10 or 12 hours of video for one case.

He often takes out extremely sensitive or personal information that isn’t needed in court.

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