It’s something that a growing number of police agencies are doing, something that many initially resisted. But videotaping interrogations shouldn’t be something that’s shied away from, as it can provide clarity to both sides of a criminal case and can prove to be an important investigatory tool.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Police Department began using video cameras in its sex offense unit. But now they are considering videotaping other “serious” interrogations, in homicide and assault cases.
Though Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III supports recording interrogations, he cautions that it’s “not as simple as going to Radio Shack and bolting a camera to the wall.” Instead the department is considering painting interrogation rooms and recarpeting them for acoustics—all in an effort to get the best footage.
In addition, a consultant has been brought in to help officers learn how their behavior on camera will “play” to a jury.
Many agencies within the state already use cameras in interrogations, but Baltimore has lagged in support for the increased technology. Early on, when the General Assembly showed support for videotaped interrogations but didn’t make it a requirement, in 2008, police were worried about how such footage would make them look and were also concerned that suspects wouldn’t want to cooperate if they knew they were on camera.
Now, along with reduced costs, police agencies are warming to the idea.
Hartford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane calls the recordings a “standard for progressive law-enforcement agencies.” And Bladensburg police Chief Charles Owens refers to them as “just another step in logging evidence.”
What was once resisted is now becoming commonplace, to the benefit of everyone involved.
Not only are videotaped interrogations a great tool for police and prosecutors when building a case, but also for defendants who are concerned about police tactics in the interrogation process.
Right now in a Baltimore police interrogation, the cops take notes and only turn on audio equipment when the suspect is ready to make a statement. Critics say that the audio equipment is often left off until the police have assisted the suspect in coming up with exactly what to say. With cameras recording the entire process, such fears can be eliminated.
A police interrogation is a high stress environment. They typically want you to admit wrongdoing and you often aren’t sure what to say or what would be in your best interest. What every suspect needs to know during this period is that they have the right to have an attorney present. They don’t have to go it alone.
If you’ve been charged with a crime or if you have reason to believe you are under investigation, contact our offices today. We can help you decide what to tell the police and what strategic moves are in your best interest.