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Police Experiences with Recording Custodial Interrogations

NCJ Number
Thomas P. Sullivan
Date Published
49 pages
A survey of 238 law enforcement agencies in 38 States that currently record custodial interviews of suspects in felony investigations were queried about the types of investigations in which recordings are made, the equipment used, whether cost is a factor in the use of recordings, whether suspects are informed of the recordings, and the experiences of veteran detectives with the recording of interrogations.
With few exceptions, the survey contacted only police and sheriff's departments researchers had reason to believe were recording custodial interrogations; thus, accepted sampling or survey techniques were not used. The survey shows that the electronic recording of custodial interrogations has been adopted by a significant number of law enforcement agencies throughout the country in order to document the content of the interrogation and the interrogator's actions. Most agencies leave the recording decision to the discretion of the officer in charge. Recordings typically extend from the time the Miranda warnings are given until the interview is complete, with no intentional breaks or omissions in the recordings. Most agencies record interviews in what they describe as "major" or "serious" felony investigations. They usually use video or both audio and video in recordings. Most State laws do not require police to inform suspects of recording. Virtually every officer who has been involved in recorded interrogations strongly supports the practice. Experience indicates that recordings significantly reduce the number of defense motions to suppress statements and confessions made while in police custody. A table shows for each agency surveyed the jurisdictional population, number of sworn officers, type of recording (audio/video), and number of years recording. Another table indicates whether the suspect is informed of the recording and whether the recording equipment is in view. Appended summary of an Illinois law that mandates recording interrogations