Local 24 political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on Memphis Police interrogations practices.
The time has come for the Memphis Police Department to join the 21st Century high tech world of investigations that go beyond body cams and video taken from stationary cameras that are practically everywhere. It’s time for the department to fully commit to recording police interrogations, particularly in homicide cases, and especially if the questioning is heading toward a confession.
Currently that is not case, as an investigation by the University of Memphis Institute for Public Service Reporting discovered. Initially, MPD deflected questions about whether it would consider using video or audio recordings during interrogations. Later on, a police spokesperson said the department is planning to record all investigative interviews in the near future. But no specific timetable or plans were given.
The reason this is important is obvious. Recordings are the most transparent way to show that confessions were obtained lawfully. They provide the best evidence in court, as opposed to an officer’s written notes that a suspect confessed. Nearly half of the states require start to finish audio or videotaping of police interrogations. Tennessee is not one of them, nor are eight of 13 other southern states.
To be clear, no is trying to hamper police investigations. Detectives have a tough job. But law enforcement routinely relies heavily on video recordings. It’s the way of the world in 2018. And Memphis police should mirror other departments in Shelby County and get on board. And that’s my point of view.