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Why Pennsylvania Needs to Record Interrogations

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We’ve often written about false confessions, and how police recording interrogation sessions would reduce the number of wrongful convictions in Pennsylvania. Last week, attorney Peter Vaira brought up these same issues in an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Vaira notes that recording the interrogation process provides a record of a suspect’s words, tone, and demeanor, especially if the interrogation is videotaped. It also allows allegations of coercion or improper police conduct to be confirmed or refuted, which protects interrogators as much as it does suspects.

Possible roadblocks to this legislation include a Pennsylvania law that requires consent from both parties before recording takes place, and the cost of supplying police departments with recording equipment. Those who agree to be interrogated are likely to also consent to recording, however, and technological advances have made the appropriate equipment more affordable. Very little truly stands in the way of a reform that would cut down on false confessions and wrongful convictions.

Vaira says:

Judges, juries, and the public expect police interrogators to act like law enforcement officials and use proper interrogation techniques, and recording helps ensure that they do so. Any confession presented in court should be obtained the right way from a defendant who actually committed the crime.

The Pittsburgh Police Department already requires interrogations to be recorded, and the rest of the state should follow suit.

Read the article:
Philadelphia Inquirer – One way to prevent wrongful convictions

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