Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Abilene PD requires recording interrogations

Via West Texas Beat, kudos to the Abilene Police Department for installing digital recording equipment in their interrogation room recently after community members accused police of coercing a suspect during an interrogation. An APD spokesman in the local news video said the department wanted to show the community that "in Abilene we don't do that, we just don't do that."

You've got to admit, that's putting your money where your mouth is. Usually in Texas, when coerced confessions are alleged, the next words out of a police spokesperson's mouth after "we just don't do that" is to give an excuse why the department won't record interrogations.

I appreciate that Abilene PD took a proactive step to improve their process instead of just reacting defensively to criticism. Some of the other chiefs in the state would do well to take note of how much that approach can do for community relations.

Beyond the PR value, though, this is a great idea that I think should be required of all departments by statute. The technology is increasingly affordable and in the digital age where the entire world is on YouTube there's just no good reason not to record interrogations from start to finish, made available to both prosecution and the defense.

My guess is cameras would actually help prosecutors more often than defense lawyers, but in cases where coerced or false confessions are at issue, it would provide evidence to avoid what right now are inevitably he-said-she-said disputes.

RELATED: Florida just changed its lineup procedures in response to faulty eyewitness testimony that led to a high profile wrongful conviction, and a blue ribbon California panel recently made similar recommendations.


Anonymous said...

Digital recording means digital files, which are, simply, files. With memory so cheap, everything can be recorded, archived, and available always.

Will we ever see real openness?

Anonymous said...

I cant believe that a country so determined to prove its way is right to the rest of the world, lags so far behind everyone else in matters like this. For years it's been a requirement for every interview to be recorded electronicly in the UK. Without a tape recorder (with 2 tapes running at the same time, that are unwrapped before the person being interviewed), I doubt very much if anyone in the UK would open their mouths at all now.