Videotaping interrogations in Pennsylvania

The Quattrone Center has released ‘Videotaping Interrogations in Pennsylvania,’ the first study to review Pennsylvania interrogation practices.

A team of researchers from the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke University School of Law today released a pathbreaking report, “Videotaping Interrogations in Pennsylvania,” the first to review Pennsylvania interrogation practices. The report describes the results of a state-wide project using public records requests to review the interrogation policies of more than 1,000 Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies, the largest sample ever surveyed in this type of study.

Video still of a police interrogation.

The study findings suggest that a statewide overhaul of interrogation policy and practice is needed in Pennsylvania. Across the state, many agencies lack any custodial interrogation policies or have done no more than set out the Miranda warnings required by the U.S. Constitution. Only about one-third of law enforcement agencies had policies regarding interrogations. Of those, 116 agencies required electronic recording of interrogations all or some of the time, while 101 encouraged recording or made it an option.

Thus, of over 1,000 agencies, only 217 had written policies on recording interrogations.

“Nationwide, recording police interrogations is a recognized best practice that creates a record of what happens when police question a suspect using coercive conduct that can produce damaging false confessions,” says Marissa Bluestine, assistant director of the Quattrone Center, whose team led the study. “Over a decade ago, a Joint Committee of the Pennsylvania Legislature recommended law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth fully record police interrogations. That has yet to happen. Across the country, law enforcement agencies have shifted toward recording all interrogations, and many states now require it. What was not well known was how many agencies in Pennsylvania have adopted this best practice, and our study shows there is a lot of work to be done in this area.”

Read more at Penn Carey Law.