Pro Tips for Designing Your Interview Room
Today, video and audio recording of interviews by law enforcement is now the norm. And while most agencies record, the number of interview rooms and types of layouts they require depend on both the size of the department and the kind of interviews that they conduct.
If you have the space, we highly recommend a minimum of two interview rooms—one for custodial interviews and one for non-custodial interviews. We also recommend a minimum of two camera views as well as two microphones in each interview room to ensure quality evidence capture.
You’ll also want to determine whether your cameras and microphones will be visible or concealed. Most agencies have policies that require the interviewer to inform their subject that they’re being recorded, though recording laws vary by state. However, concealing recording devices may allow subjects to feel more at ease during their interview and this strategy may be worth considering depending on your department’s policies. CaseCracker Onyx systems are the most flexible on the market, not only allowing for multiple cameras and mics, but covert or overt installation depending on your needs.
Now that you know what kind of equipment you need, you’ll want to know the best way to set it up in each type of room.
Suggested Layouts for Custodial and Non-Custodial Interviews
Non-custodial interviews, with citizens who want to report a possible crime or who may have information about one, are often conducted in a small, soundproofed meeting room near the main entrance of a law enforcement facility and can be in a non-secured or semi-secured area. It is important to provide a chair for the interviewee closest to the door, which will help them feel more at ease. You will want a camera field-of-view (FOV) showing the entire room including the interviewee and the door.
In this layout, we show two cameras and two microphones. The camera in the corner of the room provides an overall room FOV and is usually mounted near the ceiling. With the CaseCracker Onyx system, this camera can have a fixed FOV or a pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera, allowing you to adjust the FOV when necessary. The second camera is set up to provide a closer view of the interviewee and the interviewers and is usually placed about 48 inches from the floor. This layout also shows two separate microphones. One is attached to the ceiling above the interviewer(s). The location of this microphone will depend on other components in the room such as HVAC vents which can negatively impact the quality of your audio recording. The second microphone is located in the wall next to and, if possible, above the height of the table. It is important that nothing obstructs the microphone sensor as this could also negatively impact your audio quality.
Custodial interviews are for alleged suspects who are in custody. These individuals may be considered a threat to interviewers and may be handcuffed or otherwise secured in the interview room.
The custodial interview room layout is similar to the non-custodial layout, though it flips the position of the interviewer and subject, with the interviewer(s) situated closest to the door and the interviewee in the back of the room. These rooms are less about comfort and ease and may have handcuff bars attached to the wall or table. The room-view camera FOV is directed at the interviewee and can be a fixed FOV or a PTZ camera if required. The wall camera should be installed at about 48 inches from the floor to provide a close-up view of the interviewee in order to capture any important facial expressions or body language. The microphones are installed and set up similar to the non-custodial interview room, with the same considerations in mind regarding HVAC vents and other potential obstructions.
Special Considerations for Child Advocacy Centers
Unlike custodial interviews, interviewee comfort should be top of mind for Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) when designing interview rooms for children. They are designed similar to a non-custodial interview room. Flexibility is the key component here, as cameras and microphones may need to be adjusted depending on a child’s age and/or height. For example, younger children may be more comfortable being interviewed sitting on the floor and tend to be soft-spoken. It may be wise to install cameras and/or a microphone closer to the floor. Some installs we’ve seen have a camera placed about two to three feet above the floor.
Other important considerations when designing an interview room for juveniles include:
- Installing a PTZ camera that has the capability of zooming onto a piece of paper or chalkboard where the interviewer/interviewee may draw something of interest.
- Ensuring at least one camera FOV that shows the interviewer(s) to confirm to anyone reviewing the footage that the interviewee was not coerced into providing false information.
- Many CAC interviews must be observed by a trained law enforcement officer in real-time, so a live viewing feature, like the one offered by the CaseCracker Onyx systems, can be a valuable tool.
For more important considerations when designing your interview room, check out our post on Interview Room Best Practices which offers in-depth tips on microphone and camera placement, how to control ambient noise and light, choosing the right furniture, and more.