How Your PD Could Reduce 25% of Wrongful Convictions

Did you know that (as of March 2014) of the 312 wrongful convictions in the US that have been overturned based on DNA evidence that nearly 25% of those involved a false confession or false incriminating statements (Innocence Project, 2014)? Wrongful convictions are an epidemic, according to some, and the effects are catastrophic considering the consequences that those convicted must bear.

What you should know as a police department is that videotaping custodial interrogations, especially in homicide cases can have a tremendously positive impact on false confessions.

Reduce the Risk of Wrongful Convictions

While the practice of videotaping custodial interrogations may not eliminate the chances of police obtaining a false confession in a homicide case, research shows that it may drastically reduce the likelihood (The Contstitution Project, 2014).

Two Startling Statistics

This has been shown most notably in serious cases, especially homicides and other high-profile felony cases.

  • More than 80 percent of the 125 false confessions in a 2004 study occurred in homicide cases (The Justice Project, 2004).
  • 20 percent of the defendants who had falsely confessed received death sentences. (Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations, 2004).

More from the Constitution Project

Why is it that high profile cases have a higher likelihood of false confessions? According to the Constitution Project:

“Police both have more time to investigate and face greater pressure to make an arrest. The vast majority of police officers act in good faith and according to the law. However, one of the most conservative early estimates concluded that police-induced false confessions contributed to at least one out of every ten wrongful convictions in potential capital cases. The current figure is likely far higher given modern estimates that flawed confessions play a role in nearly one fourth of all wrongful convictions.”

By introducing electronic recording equipment to the equation, your police department can begin to work at lowering this staggering statistic as well as experience a number of collateral benefits.

Consider the study by Welsh White, False Confessions and the Constitution: Safeguards Against Untrustworthy Confessions, the statement which though made twenty years ago, still holds true today:

“Videotaping police interrogation of suspects protects against the admission of false confessions for at least four reasons.

  1. First, it provides the means by which courts can monitor interrogation practices and thereby enforce the other safeguards [such as the giving of Miranda warnings and the prohibition against coercive questioning techniques].
  2. Second, it deters the police from employing interrogation methods likely to lead to untrustworthy confessions.
  3. Third, it enables courts to make more informed judgments about whether interrogation practices were likely to lead to an untrustworthy confession.
  4. Finally, mandating this safeguard device accords with sound public policy because the safeguard will have additional salutary effects besides reducing untrustworthy confessions, including more net benefits for law enforcement” (White, 1993).

Gain More Knowledge on Digital Audio and Video Recording

As an increasing number of states move to mandated audio and video recording, and as the trend toward adoption continues to rise, your police department needs to stay up to date. Check out more on what conversations are circulating around recording equipment, the value it adds and the solutions it provides. Contact us to learn more.

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