Is Your Interrogation Procedure Documented?

As we’ve mentioned in the past, nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently require videotaped police interviews. If your department records interviews, you’re ahead of the curve. But there’s still an issue you might be overlooking. A 2014 study in Virginia found that fewer than ⅓ of the police departments surveyed had any sort of written interrogation procedure. An accepted interrogation model goes hand in glove with interview recording. Here are a few reasons why.

Shifting Techniques

The most popular interrogation technique used in America, the Reid technique, dates back to the 1940s. Recently, the effectiveness of Reid-based interrogation has come under fire. This is partly because it has turned out that signs of nervousness, like sweating and erratic eye contact, aren’t necessarily good indicators of guilt. Traditionally, the Reid technique is designed to seek out signs of anxiety, then trip the suspect into revealing information. Instead, it may sometimes create the very situation that leads law enforcement to believe the suspect is guilty.

Identifying Best Practice

Law enforcement officers who rewatch recorded interviews are sometimes surprised by what they see. By showing a suspect documentation during an interview, or asking leading questions, they may feed suspects details of a crime without realizing it. A flustered suspect may then mention these details, confirming their guilt in the eyes of the interviewer. Going in with a specific, consistent set of principles in mind can avoid this type of error. A written policy puts the playbook out there and makes it accessible to everyone. The policy can be adjusted to address issues identified along the way.

Moving Toward Excellence

A written interrogation policy can go a long way toward keeping everyone in your department on the same page. Using a policy model alongside solutions like iRecord is even better. Think of it as an opportunity to do the same kind of film study football players do. iRecord provides your clip reel. By reviewing your performance, you improve your overall game. You can also use what you learn to enrich trainings, and to engage in larger conversations about best practice.

Written policies and recorded interviews cut down on false confessions, and make for tighter court cases, as well. Both of these methods provide transparency, which makes it less likely that a defense attorney will file a successful motion to suppress a confession.

When you’re investigating a crime, you want to know that you’ve apprehended the correct suspect, and that the real perpetrator isn’t walking free. You want your police work to hold up under scrutiny, and you want the case you hand a prosecutor to be airtight. Taking the time to document your procedures can improve all these outcomes.

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