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Campbellsville University hears former youth minister talk of his forensic work


John Welsh, video forensic specialist with the Louisville Metro Police, shows audio enhancement during a session at Campbellsville University. He is the former youth minister at Campbellsville Christian Church. (CU Photo by Luke Young)
John Welsh, video forensic specialist with the Louisville Metro Police, shows audio enhancement during a session at Campbellsville University. He is the former youth minister at Campbellsville Christian Church. (CU Photo by Luke Young)

By Steeley Shacklette, student news writer

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. –  Gun shots are heard over a phone. The man shooting says he shot another man in self-defense. Were there two separate guns shot or only one?

That’s the type of situation John Welsh, video forensic specialist with Louisville Metro Police, deals with nearly every day.

Welsh, former youth minister at Campbellsville Christian Church from 1984 until 1990, demonstrated voice identification technology, audio enhancement and video enhancement March 22 at Campbellsville University.

Welsh, having worked in law enforcement for 28 years, demonstrated different situations in which media forensics may be needed. This included analyzing gunshot sounds, tones of voice in audio and analyzing video.

In one 911 recording he played for the audience, gunshots are heard over the phone. The man who shot the gun claimed he was shooting in self-defense.

Welsh said the man who was shot and killed was found with a shotgun in his car. Welsh said the detectives brought the recording to him to determine if there were two separate guns shooting in the call, or if there was only one.

Welsh determined there was only one gun being used and that the shooter was not shooting in self-defense because of the sound of the audio and the placement of the gun in the car. This is one of many real cases that he showed the people attending.

In 1994, Welsh started his journey in the realm of forensic audio. This led him to many employers, including the FBI and the United States military. While in the FBI, Welsh spent three years learning and practicing computer forensics including receiving training at Quantico, Va.

Welsh said one of the most memorable cases he has worked was deciphering a recording of a phone call.

He explained the scenario: there was one man on the cell phone, but in the background of the call there was another man who was also on the phone. The man in the background of the call said a telephone number in his separate conversation.

Welsh discussed this as a demonstration of diminishing some sounds to bring forth other sounds in an audio file.

Welsh had to figure out the phone number that was said through the original phone call of the first man. He had to decipher, through the main man’s voice, what the man in the background was saying.

Welsh said it took him eight hours of listening to the same ten-second audio clip to finally solve the case. The phone number and other evidence gathered through it eventually led to a federal conviction of drug charges.

All of his experiences and training have led him back to Kentucky. At the Louisville Metro Police Department, Welsh works closely with the homicide unit. Welsh said dealing with so much death may be the hardest part of his job.

Welsh said he deals mainly with surveillance video, but he showed various aspects of media forensics during his session at Campbellsville University. This included audio enhancement of unclear 911 calls and video stabilization and enhancement in order to read a license plate number.

Welsh said the demand for forensic media specialists will increase with the rise of technology because everyone who has a phone has a video camera on them at all times. This would mean more video-based evidence being received by police departments.

Welsh encouraged people to look into law enforcement careers because of the variability and many different career specialty options.

Brandon Bagwell, a freshman at Campbellsville University from Nashville, Tenn., said  he enjoyed getting to see how Welsh breaks down audio and video in his job. Bagwell said he got a lot of insights that led him to consider media forensics as a possible career choice.

Alex Swanger, a senior at Campbellsville University from Berea, Ky., said, “His passion excited me, even though I have no desire to ever sit and listen to garbled messages all day.”

Swanger said she realized “There are so many more opportunities in communications than I have ever considered.” Swanger also said that she was inspired by the different facets of opportunity that are in the job market today.

Jeannie Clark, director of broadcast services, arranged Welsh’s visit. He was her youth minister at Campbellsville Christian Church.

“I think it’s always important to expose students to multiple career opportunities,” Clark said. “Mr. Welsh has taken his background in audio/video and found a unique new application for his skills. The field of communications is always expanding, and I hope students were able to find new ideas for their future career plans.”