Part 1 – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: Why Record Police Interviews?

Cardinal Peak Technologies has been selling purpose-built Interview Room Recording Solutions since 2004. Since placing our very first products in Boston and Quincy Police Departments, we have witnessed a very significant change in the way in which the investigative community accepts and adopts police interview recording practices. We have been fortunate to work side by side with law enforcement officials during this major shift and can recall the needs, attitudes and requirements of recording custodial interviews over the past 13 years.

In this three-part blog series, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” I will talk about the past, present and future thoughts about the reasons to record, various recording technology and how our customer base has changed over time. I will start with “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Why Record Police Interviews?”

 

 

Yesterday’s Point of View on Interview Recording

Believe it or not, when we first developed the CaseCracker product, there was reluctance to record interviews. It was the unknown of how courts would respond, how suspects would react, and how many benefits would be realized. In those early years, it was very common for detectives to fully resist the mere notion of recording their investigative interviews.  The reasoning at the time was remarkably easy to believe.  The most frequent pushback we would receive was that recording the interview would surely cause the suspect to get stage fright and clam up. As a result, investigators feared not being able to build rapport with suspects. Of course modern day cameras are no longer sitting on a tripod and pointed at your face like a cannon. Instead they are hidden completely out of view in very clever covert housings which further ensure that the suspect forgets that he or she is being recorded. 

It was also not uncommon to have investigators tell us that they did not want to be recorded as they feared the scrutiny that may befall their custodial interviewing techniques when viewed by defense attorneys and jurors. When we take a look at the studies and reports today, they show that recording protects everyone in an interview room.

 

Today’s Point of View on Interview Recording

It has really been in the last five years that the public has come to demand to see what is going on behind closed doors. Today’s culture is becoming more transparent than ever and it is an expectation by jurors that all interviews are being recorded and the video will be shared in court.  By showing the video in courtrooms, officers immediately began seeing the value of proving to the defense that their interviews were conducted lawfully and properly. The video recordings completely wiped away the game of “he said, she said.” Looking in the rearview mirror, there is also the tangible benefit of fewer lawsuits based on claims of officer misconduct. 

Most recently when I visit local police agencies, I find an entirely new attitude towards recording. Today, investigators tell me they have come to appreciate recording their interviews as doing so allows them to focus on mannerisms and body language of suspects instead of on their notepads. They further boast about the value of reviewing their recordings weeks later as a fast means to recollecting what they were initially told and to relating cases. Having the ability to review multiple interviews in a short window of time allows them to seek out inconsistencies in statements and find details that might have been originally overlooked. If all that were not enough reason to record, young investigators tell me they value being able to review interviews held by their superiors as they love learning from the real masters in action. It is rare, but once in a while, I get someone who tells me that during the review process, they saw a place where they missed the chance to get a confession.

 

Tomorrow’s Thoughts on Interview Recording

With the rampant acceptance of recording, what will the views be tomorrow?  I think we are already seeing signs of the future as law enforcement is starting to see that they are gaining more trust by the citizens of the communities they serve simply because they are recording. This is garnering tremendous community goodwill as people now know what is going on behind closed doors and it is completely above board. In time, we as citizens, will be able to look in the rearview mirror and see a decrease in the number of wrongful convictions and our beloved police departments and taxpayers will see tremendous cost savings as they spend less time in the courtroom.

Tomorrow, with the federal laws and requirements, we anticipate recording laws nationwide. With the advance of technology, it is easier than ever to record in every organization. Look out for Part 2 of this series to learn more about how police interview recording technologies have changed over the years and what we will come to expect in the future.