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Mandatory recording of police interrogation being debated in Florida

Intelligent Video Solutions has just returned from exhibiting at the National Sheriff’s Association Annual Education and Technology Expo, where video observation and recording was certainly a hot topic under consideration and discussion across the country.  IVS is a proud corporate partner of the NSA and is committed to helping our law enforcement agencies improve the quality of their interview room recording systems and investigations process.

The issue of mandatory electronic recording during police interrogations has become a hot political issue in Florida. While the Florida legislature failed to pass a bill mandating recording interrogations, candidates for state Attorney General are taking positions on the issue of electronic recording of police interrogations.

State Senator by Senator Jeff Brandes introduced a bill last December, SB 1220 Detention Facilities, that would have mandated the recording of suspect interrogations by law enforcement officials, forcing those who did not comply to justify their action in a written report.

“It’s 2018. If we have standards for body cameras, we should have them for interrogations,” Brandes said regarding the bill.

The Florida Innocence Project, a nonprofit has assisted wrongfully convicted criminals for 25 years, has been advocating for the bill.

It was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee but its companion bill in the House was not voted on prior to the end of the legislative session and died.

Law enforcement interest groups such as Florida Police Chiefs Association opposed the bill on the grounds that it would be overly obstructive hinder obtaining confessions.

However, the issue continues to be publicly debated with candidates for Attorney General publicly stating their position on the subject. The candidates are split on party lines with Democratic candidates Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens supporting mandatory recording and the Republicans Frank White, Ashley Moody, Jay Frant, and Ross Spano opposing such legislation.  Spano is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and let the bill die and repeatedly has refused to comment on the issue. He subsequently dropped out of the race to run for Congress.

Police often use a variety tactics during interrogations that often last more than 6 hours to break down criminal suspects. While deception by the police has been sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court, threats of physical intimidation make a confession inadmissible.

In recent years, DNA testing has led many states including Florida to release many wrongfully convicted felons who had been serving time for crimes they did not commit. Many suspects of limited mental capacity who wrongfully admitted to guilt while under duress during lengthy police interrogations were later exonerated by DNA testing.

In 2009 Anthony Caravella was released after serving 26 years for being wrongfully convicted of murder. He was 15 when was initially convicted and had an IQ of 67. This prompted the Florida Supreme Court in 2010 to mandate the creation of the Florida Innocence Commission to address address the issue.

In 2012, the  commission issued a report creating standards that law enforcement officials should follow while interrogating suspects which included electronically recording statements made by suspects. It argued that this would lead to more expedient trial proceedings along with fewer wrongful convictions. It subsequently recommended that the Florida legislature pass a law utilizing that standard. That standard has yet to be enacted.

The issue is more pressing in Florida because it has a larger prison population compared to other states.

In 2013, Caravella was awarded $7 million after a jury found that he had been framed by the officers handling the case.

Twenty-four states across the country mandate recording interrogations along with several major city police departments including Daytona Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Palm Beach, Pensacola Miami-Dade County, Orlando, and Tallahassee, among others.

A modern AV interview recording system like VALT from Intelligent Video Solutions can empower the investigators to create and manage their own video database.  A truly centralized, IT approved system that can manage an unlimited number of cameras and rooms will improve investigative collaboration and quality of evidence. Contact IVS today for assistance in the AV design of any interview room observation and recording system.