Today’s Investigative Special Report – October 26, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “The Need For Law Enforcement To Digitally Record Their Work”

by Lawrence W. Daly

Over the past four decades the use of recording of law enforcement investigations has increased and has proven to be a necessary tool to document their behavior has become of the utmost importance. Judges and juries want to hear victims, witnesses, and law enforcement officers testify, but if the process includes digital audio and video recordings which they can listen to, there is an instant credibility and reliability of the testimony.
Many law enforcement agencies require their police vehicles to mount a video recorder on their dash board. The purpose is to record specifically the actions of the law enforcement officer and the citizens they have contact with. If the officer makes a traffic stop the recording can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the perpetrator committed the crime he was criminally charged with. Further, recording the violator may turn into a DUI situation and the process which takes place such as the field sobriety tests can be used as evidence at a later time in court.
A Drug Dealers Table
A Drug Dealers Table (Photo credit: TheDarkThing)
State police investigate a majority of the accidents which happen in a community. Their expertise includes utilizing digital audio and video recordings of how the vehicles came to rest after the accident. Further the video recordings can assist in documenting where evidence was located when the officer located it. The actions of the drivers and passengers can be digitally audio and videotaped. The dialogue between all of the parties and the law enforcement officer can later be transcribed to document what was specifically said.
Three decades ago it wasn’t unusual to audiotape a victim of a serious crime e.g. rape, assault, kidnapping, and so forth. When recording the interview of any victim or witness this provides the law enforcement with the convenience of focusing on the witness, instead of trying to keep notes during the interview. If taking notes is of importance, than another officer should be present during the interview and their specific responsibility would be to take written notes. Some victims and witnesses may not want to be digitally recorded in any fashion. This makes the interview process difficult as law enforcements goal is to document any statements made by these witnesses. It is always possible that law enforcement wants a victim or witness to make a statement which they need to receive to pursue a prosecution as the witness may have dealt with them before and changed their testimony.
Witnesses are not that much different than the victim interview. Witnesses generally do not have a proprietary interest in the prosecution of the perpetrator. The witness may know the perpetrator but may have unfortunately been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Law enforcement need witnesses to cooperate and documenting what they have to offer reference what they heard and saw during the crime is relevant and material. If the law enforcement officer has a problem with the witness in 
English: Audio levels shown on a Zoom H4n whil...
English: Audio levels shown on a Zoom H4n while recording Deutsch: Lautstärkeanzeige des Zoom H4n bei der Tonaufnahme (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
cooperating with the officer he can explain in candid and firm terms that their testimony is a necessity and it is important they cooperate.
In the child abuse profession the alleged victim may have to be medically examined. During the medical examination the physician may use a piece of equipment called a colposcope which has a camera attached to it which has the capability to take photographs of the examination i.e. the child’s genitilia. If the child has been raped there may be evidence supporting the child was sexually assaulted. The argument by physicians and victim advocates is just because there is no medical evidence found the child may have been abused. This belief system comes from many studies where confessions were obtained from perpetrators who molested a child and when the medical examination was performed no medical evidence was found.
There are two situations where specialized physicians who do nothing but medically obtain history i.e. interviewing the child about what allegedly happened to them, this history is never digitally recorded in any fashion. Moreover, the physician who takes notes of the alleged interview will destroy their notes, stating they check the type version versus the written version and if it is accurate then they destroy them.
Although these two situations are a definite process issue, until the courts come down on the medical community and prosecutors, the lack of recordings and destruction of their notes will continue.
When law enforcement responds to a major crime the crime scene technician is responsible in digitally video recording the scene. The process is simple in the video recording begins from the outside of the residence into the home. Inside the home there are a multitude of responsibilities for the crime scene technician as it will be important later to review the recording for anything the law enforcement investigator may have missed during the crime scene search. Further, the technician will need to identify any and all evidence. With an assistant the technician will have the assistant place a number or another type of insignia so the evidence will not be contaminated by the next technician or investigator who comes into the crime scene and comes upon the same evidence. Identifying and marking the evidence diminishes the possibility the evidence will be contaminated or destroyed.
If the crime scene includes any bodies, the recording will have the utmost importance as the body position may explain how they were murdered. The technician needs to take recordings from all angles so if anyone is viewing the recording it provides a sense they are seeing everything the crime scene had to offer.
Taking on the narcotics trade in Helmand
Taking on the narcotics trade in Helmand (Photo credit: DFID - UK Department for International Development)
The recordings can later be utilized to prove to a judge or jury where the evidence was found, what it looked like after the crime, the location of the evidence, and etc. The judge and jury want this information so they can weigh the information and correlate the evidence to the witness’s testimony.
The drug unit of law enforcement agency rely on digital audio and video recordings when it comes to the undercover officer meeting with the drug dealer for an exchange of drugs and money. Having an audio recording of the exchange at the same time video recording the event will carry much weight in a court of law. Further, the drug buy can convince the drug dealer who is apprehended during a drug buy or search warrant to work with law enforcement in identifying who the individuals are who are up the chain of command. It is law enforcement’s goal to always identify, apprehend, and prosecute the top person of the drug cartel.
With the invention of the smart phone which accessories include a camera and video recorder there should never be an excuse by a law enforcement officer that they were unable to digitally audio and/or video record an event. Most crime scene technicians will have the necessary equipment to perform the crime scene searches. Moreover, the type of equipment used for surveillance, drug buys, secret information, and etc. is put together for use prior to any event being recorded.
One of the most important aspects of digital audio and video recording is what to do with the recording once the event has been completed. Most law enforcement agencies have policies and procedures which should state the evidence i.e. the recording should be placed into the evidence room. Law enforcement officers may place their audio and video recordings on their computer as transferring the recording to the computer is made easy with the design of the recording equipment and the USB device attached to it.
The future in documenting events will continue to play a major role in the recording of events, such as accidents, crime scenes, police conduct, drug buys, and etc. The development of the digital recording equipment is moving into the 3D format. This allows an enhanced view of the event for those who will later view the recordings. The manner in which technology is enhancing how recording an event is being documented needs to be a goal law enforcement needs to pursue. Using new creative and innovative technology will and may make the difference if an individual is found guilty or not guilty. Law enforcement need to prepare and submit grants to organizations and the federal government in order to obtain digital equipment which will enhance not only their performance but document the witnesses they interview.

Lawrence W. Daly
Kent, WA

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