Secretly Recording Interrogations

It's getting easier to watch the watchers:

A teen suspect's snap decision to secretly record his interrogation with an MP3 player has resulted in a perjury case against a veteran detective and a plea deal for the teen.

Unaware of the recording, Detective Christopher Perino insisted under oath at a trial in April that suspect Erik Crespo wasn't questioned about a shooting in the Bronx.

But the defense confronted the detective with a transcript it said proved he had spent more than an hour unsuccessfully trying to persuade Crespo to confess.

Perino was arraigned today on 12 counts of first-degree perjury and freed on bail.

My guess is that this sort of perjury occurs more than we realize. If there's one place I think cameras should be rolling at all times, it's in police station interrogation rooms. And no erasing the tapes either. (And those tapes must have been really damning. Old interrogation tapes can yield valuable intelligence; you don't ever erase them unless you absolutely have to.)

Posted on December 11, 2007 at 12:26 PM • 101 Comments

Comments

ShaneDecember 11, 2007 12:53 PM

What strikes me as surprising is that the recording was admitted into evidence. I guess I was always under the impression that conversations recorded in that manner where not admissible in court.

This actually makes me a bit upset, considering I did this very same thing during the 'we have to let you go' speech my former employers gave me, which was so incredibly illegal that I could've owned the company had I believed the tape admissible as evidence. I was told by a lawyer that it was not, so I signed my severance agreement, and they got off free and clear.

Kudos to the teenager though.

B-ConDecember 11, 2007 12:56 PM

Another example of how as the technological gizmos that Average Joe walks around with become more advanced, Average Joe can defend himself better. You might call it an "invasion" of criminal privacy. Crimes once committed in the comfort of assured secrecy are no longer necessarily secret. If you kidnap someone, they might photograph you and send that picture to someone else before you realize it. If you interrogate or threaten someone, they might be recording the conversation, etc.

SteveDecember 11, 2007 12:56 PM

Shane - As a journalism student, my wife was taught that the legality of secret taping varies from state to state. For example, in Wisconsin it's entirely legal, but not in many other states.

JonathanDecember 11, 2007 1:06 PM

@Steve: Yeah, New York law was one person amongst those being taped had to know, which is pretty convenient for those who are taping others. Something tells me that NY recently "updated" this law to "any one person has to know," meaning third parties can record an eavesdrop. I might be mistaken, and possibly it was a Patriot Act thing, but I remember it had changed to "help" the authorities.

TimDecember 11, 2007 1:12 PM

CIA interrogations are completely different than police interrogations. This blog attempts to cloud the issue by equating the two. Shame on you Bruce.

DanDecember 11, 2007 1:17 PM

I suspect the technical detail about the recording's admissibility has to do with the fact it was trying to prove *that* the individual was interrogated, not the details of what the officer said. (Can any of the lawyers out there comment on rules of evidence in the majority states on this?)

Double StandardDecember 11, 2007 1:19 PM

@Bruce

"If there's one place I think cameras should be rolling at all times, it's in police station interrogation rooms."

Right. It'll help to build that Wholesale Surveillance State that you've spoken about, and that'll be another step forward. Oh, wait.

Do you honestly think more (or worse?) crime happens in police station interrogation rooms than on the corner of __th and __th streets in any of the top 100 highest-crime neighborhoods in the world?

Clive RobinsonDecember 11, 2007 1:28 PM

There was a similar case in the U.K. where the judge threw the case out because the police officer (of many years) had told the kid that if he did not confesse he would fit him up for something else. The judge went on to say that he could not have any faith in the word of the officer concerned or that of his colleagus which is a very daming thing to say.

As for,

"f there's one place I think cameras should be rolling at all times, it's in police station interrogation rooms"

Sorry it probably won't work all that will happen is the police officers will get wiser to the risk and find out where they can make the threats where they are either not being recorded or where they know the mics will not pick them up.

Think about it the police officer gets the suspect out of the cell when he knows that the cleaners are vacuming/polishing/cleaning the coridor floors. With his back to the camera he then pushes/trips the suspect etc and while picking him up has a quite word in his ear.

When the suspect says he was threatend the tape will show the police officer pulling the suspect back to his feet and anything said will be drowned out by the noise of the vacum/polishing/cleaning machine.

The police officer simply says he was just checking the suspect was ok and warning them to be more carefull on the slippery surface or some other load of nonsense the jury is going to (want to) belive.

MartinDecember 11, 2007 1:35 PM

Double Standard: the difference between this and broad monitoring of the general public lies in who's being monitored - big brother or little brother...

dave XDecember 11, 2007 1:40 PM

Clive Robinson: "...all that will happen is the police officers will get wiser to the risk and find out where they can make the threats..."

If our society is enforced by guardians such as this, it isn't worth saving.

bmcmahonDecember 11, 2007 1:40 PM

I expect that one practical consequence of this case will soon be that anything even vaguely electronic-looking will be confiscated from the detainees before they are interrogated. "For reasons of security", of course.

dragonfrogDecember 11, 2007 1:40 PM

@Tim: OK, so CIA interrogations have some differences from police interrogations. What in the nature of those differences would make it acceptable for the CIA to destroy tapes, while it's not alright for the cops to do the same?

In each case, the goal is to apply enough pressure that the guilty will confess what they know, but the innocent will not become desperate enough to make a false confession. In each case, erring on the side of too much pressure tends to produce more disastrously bad information than erring on the side of too little.

Sure, the CIA are (at least nominally) after intelligence, while the police are after evidence that can lead to a conviction. The rules that govern how much pressure is acceptable come from different sources - the human rights angle is covered by the Geneva convention in one case and by civil rights laws in the another; the accuracy angle is covered by the rules of evidence in one case, and the need to provide good quality intelligence in the other.

And in each case though, recording the interrogation can provide proof that the interrogator used an amount of pressure consistent with both the relevant human rights requirements, and the relevant accuracy requirements. And in either case, destroying the recordings years after they were made, at a time when the interrogation tactics are coming under heavy scrutiny, looks mighty bad.

bmcmahonDecember 11, 2007 1:41 PM

I expect that one practical consequence of this case will soon be that anything even vaguely electronic-looking will be confiscated from the detainees before they are interrogated. "For reasons of security", of course.

A Very Small ShellscriptDecember 11, 2007 1:44 PM

Police officers are probably like most other humans. Therefore, the harder we make it for them to bully those they question, the less they will do it.

(And surveillance in the interrogation rooms obviously makes it harder for officers to bully suspects, since they then have to do it while making it look like an accident when transferring suspects while the cleaners work.)

LuisDecember 11, 2007 1:52 PM

@Double Standard:

I will agree with you if you can tell me How does recording every single interrogation room aftects ones privacy?
I'm not compleltly familiarized with american interrogation laws, but as far as I know, or think I know, the police can record an interrogation. Why should the "custodians" be able to record the interrogation session and turn it off when they feel like it?

Second: in my opinion the sort of crime comited by this police officer the worse kind of crime. Because in a free and democratic nation, like Europe and like USA used to be, it's better to set a guilty man free than send an inocent to jail. When you reverse this priorities what stops who ever is in charge from sending his opposition to jail just because they might be guilty, at least of something...

TommyDecember 11, 2007 1:55 PM

The article alluded to being shown a transcript. So while the conversation was recorded, it doesn't say that it was admitted as evidence, does it? It says the transcript was admitted. Maybe with a *wink* that there may be an actual recording somewhere.

Element of SurpriseDecember 11, 2007 2:00 PM

@Double Standard:

I take it that the reference to "Wholesale Surveillance State" reflects a concern about protection of privacy.

Interrogation by police officers is not a private matter: it is an interaction between a private person and government officials. Would a reasonable person suppose that a person under such interrogation is NOT under surveillance, if only by the officer(s) in the room with them? Would a reasonable person expect that no record will be made of such an interrogation?

Governments routinely keep records of such interrogations. Requiring video recording would make these records more comprehensive, and more difficult to falsify. (See http://www.schneier.com/paper-camera.html for a proposal to achieve high security against recorded image tampering.)

IMO, the public is entitled to quite a lot of information about the official conduct of public officers: they are, or at least are supposed to be, acting on the people's behalf, and are certainly on the people's payroll.

dragonfrogDecember 11, 2007 2:06 PM

@Double Standard

"Do you honestly think more (or worse?) crime happens in police station interrogation rooms than on the corner of __th and __th streets in any of the top 100 highest-crime neighborhoods in the world?"

Worse crimes, yes - worse because of who commits them.

Maybe it's a sign I'm naive, but I'm more shocked to hear that a police officer, sworn to uphold the law and protect the vulnerable, beats up a (vulnerable) handcuffed suspect, than I am to hear that a desperate drug addict did the same or worse to a mugging victim. Because I still expect better of the cops.

I know my opinion is not unanimous - there are plenty of people who trust cops less than any other class of human on earth. For them, the crimes committed by cops may not be worse, because they don't expect better of cops; and maybe that's more consistent with your impressions, I don't know...

AlexDecember 11, 2007 2:08 PM

"CIA interrogations are completely different than police interrogations." @Tim: you can't be more wrong. Both are situations where a government agency uses coercive powers against an individual. And in both cases human rights should be respected all the way. Sadly history tells us that government agencies form time to time have problems with that.

Count0December 11, 2007 2:24 PM

Bruce has it right when it comes to recording interpretations. In fact in Minnesota there is a state law requiring video and audio of all confessions used in court. Why all states do not require this simple safeguard is beyond me.

silenceDecember 11, 2007 2:29 PM

Count0: California doesn't have a legal requirement for such taping because the police officers' union fought against it.

Double StandardDecember 11, 2007 2:31 PM

@dragonfrog

"Worse crimes, yes - worse because of who commits them."

Well, by your standard then, you should be able to console the family of a murder victim by explaining to them that, "Hey, at least he wasn't handcuffed and beaten by a cop. That would have been worse than being murdered by this drug addict."

Doesn't seem like a great standard for judging "worseness".

@Element of Surprise, et al

"Requiring video recording would make these records more comprehensive..."

Yeah, it's impossible that a cop could beat the guy in Room 2, then drag him over to Room 1 (the one with the camera), and politely interrogate him there. It's naive to think that police officers wouldn't find a way around being videotaped in their own precinct building. You'd have to put a camera in every room, including the bathrooms and showers. I suppose the female police officers would be ok with having 24-hour running cameras in the showers and stalls.

It's a silly idea, and it distracts from better ideas on how to avoid a police state.

AustralianPerspectiveDecember 11, 2007 2:39 PM

When I was doing a Fraud Investigators in Australia, the trainer, a police officer, told us to record everything, record in the interview room, even try to record a person refusing to speak to you while the tape is on (before turning it off). He did not mean every conversation needed to be recorded, but significant ones.

In Australia Taped Records of Interview are used widely. The only time I have been offically interviewed, was by the tax office and they used a portabe tape recorded which provided 3 identical copies.

Recording of interviews protects the investigator of allegations of "verballing". The "verballing" allegation was common before recordings were introduced. If the defence can introduce enough doubt about the trustworthyness of the investigator, a conviction will not hold before a jury.

Law enforcement has not always been as clean as we would like in Australia and, I assume, most Western countries. When the public do not trust the police they will not believe the investgator if someone contradicts their version of events. Because of this, law enforcement need to be seen above reproach.

AustralianPerspectiveDecember 11, 2007 2:44 PM

@DoubleStandard:

If a detainee goes from one camera and then reappears all bloody, it will look suspicious when the detainee complains he was assaulted by police.

Blaise PascalDecember 11, 2007 2:48 PM

@Shane,

I am not a lawyer, but to my understanding there are different rules of evidence for evidence obtained by the police, evidence given to the police by outsiders, evidence used to prosecute someone, evidence used to defend someone, and evidence used to show that someone wasn't trustworthy in their testimony.

For instance, it is not legal for a police officer to enter a suspects house without a warrant and sieze as evidence a bag of weed in their medicine cabinet. However, if a third party (not hired by the police) were to give the police the bag of weed, telling them they got it from the medicine cabinet, the weed could be used in evidence. The defense also doesn't have to be as scrupulously squeaky-clean in following procedures and the law in getting its evidence (but it is liable for laws broken) to defend. To the point of the article, even if the recording by the teen couldn't be admitted normally (probably due to relevance), the fact that it contradicts the sworn testimony of one of the major witnesses for the prosecution would probably allow it to be admitted as impeachment evidence.

DavidDecember 11, 2007 2:57 PM

@bmcmahon:

I assume the teen was not under arrest during this interrogation, so the cops could not have confiscated anything unless it was contraband/weapon, and then the kid would have to be arrested.

Detectives often don't want to arrest them before their initial interrogation, because the detective wants to put off saying "you have the right to an attorney..." as long as possible. The suspect is more likely to go for an attorney if they hear the detective say it, and once they lawyer up the detective can't talk to them alone.

Also if the kid is not under arrest, they are 'free to go' but the detective can still pressure them, i.e., "it looks bad if you walk out of here without telling me anything," etc.

So what I'm saying is, detectives are just going to have to learn to deal with suspects possibly recording them, because they seem to find it more valuable to put off the arrest, for other reasons.

Also, from personal knowledge, at least a good portion of the LAPD interrogation rooms are automatically video/sound recorded. I would be surprised if the NYPD interrogation rooms are not also recorded.

If they are recorded, the DA had to know about the perjury too unless he/she neglected to watch the tape, or it was destroyed, and that creates a whole other issue since the defense should have been able to access the official interrogation tapes as well.

Double StandardDecember 11, 2007 2:58 PM

@AustralianPerspective

Seriously? OK.

1.) What makes you think the detainee will appear on camera before the beating?

2.) If he did appear on camera before the beating, then reappear bloody, you think the explanation of "after he stepped away from the camera, he took a swing at me and my fellow officers" wouldn't work? With a dozen other officers who 'witnessed' the swing testifying to the truth of that statement?

3.) You ever been hit in the stomach with a baton like you were a homerun baseball? Five, ten times? Guess what: no blood on the face.

AlanDecember 11, 2007 3:05 PM

In Oregon they have recordings in the interrogation rooms. What happened is that it moved the illegal stuff (including assault by officers) to places where they were out of camera range.

In the latest scandal here, the way they caught the officer was by his own bragging while online.

Andrew2December 11, 2007 3:08 PM

"What strikes me as surprising is that the recording was admitted into evidence. I guess I was always under the impression that conversations recorded in that manner where not admissible in court."

As others have said, the recording law(s) varies by state. But even if strictly illegal, breaking a (relatively minor) law to defend yourself from police misconduct in a criminal trial is unlikely to be prosecuted; it'd be a PR disaster: "Teen convicted of shaming police department."

And since it wasn't the state violating (or directly causing the violation of) any such recording law, the evidence can be used in the prosecution of others, namely the police officer.

Civil trials are different, especially for the plaintiff. Ask a lawyer for details, but I think "Unclean hands" has something to do with it.

derfDecember 11, 2007 3:16 PM

Had the dashcam not been running, and someone in the media not gotten a copy, I'm sure we'd have never heard about the guy that was tazered for refusing to sign his speeding ticket.

Just goes to show you - you may have to trust authority but you should absolutely verify that it's being used correctly. This goes for all positions of authority, including administrators on your networks, for example.

AnonymousDecember 11, 2007 3:40 PM

Too bad this is completely illegal in MA and many other states. You could find yourself in much bigger trouble for surreptitiously recording a conversation. It's happened many times, and is an ugly, ugly situation.

dragonfrogDecember 11, 2007 4:07 PM

@Double Standard

What I'm saying is that the exact same abuse can be made worse depending on who commits them.

Do you honestly think you'd be no more upset at being assaulted by a police officer than you would at being assaulted by a homeless person?

No matter what the crime, your chance of seeing justice against the police is lower - they have more power over you, more power to escape repercussions, and consequently much more responsibility to avoid abusing that power.

@ Shane and others, on admissibility

I'm surprised that the cop didn't know by the time of the trial that the transcript existed. I had thought "surprise evidence" was a courtroom-TV-drama thing only, and that that in real life both sides had to discover to one another all the evidence they planned to use well in advance of trial.

KaszetaDecember 11, 2007 4:08 PM

Around here (NH), recording without consent is illegal. Several times people have tried this and gotten in bigger trouble because of it.

AnonymousDecember 11, 2007 4:31 PM

I know if I was on a jury, I wouldn't care if the officers did have a confession. If the defendant doesn't stand by the confession it is meaningless.
Now if the police claimed that the defendant told them something only the perpetrator would have known that would be different. But even there I would be wary of the police leading the defendant and would want to hear the actual conversation or have some proof that the defendant told the officers something they didn't already know.

Double StandardDecember 11, 2007 4:32 PM

@dragonfrog

"What I'm saying is that the exact same abuse can be made worse depending on who commits them."

That's quite different from what you posted before ("exact same" versus "or worse").

"No matter what the crime, your chance of seeing justice against the police is lower..."

As is your chance of being a victim of police-instigated crime. Very few, and a very small percentage, of the murders that happen in the U.S. happen at the hands of police officers. The same goes for assaults and batteries.

Cameras rolling in police interrogation rooms wouldn't hamper police-instigated crime anyway, for the reasons I've posted above.

bmcmahonDecember 11, 2007 4:34 PM

@David: A few years ago, I would have agreed with you. But now that even blankets at a concert are verboten "for security reasons", I am no longer so willing to assume reasonability.

I would not be at all surprised to find some agencies reacting to this recording incident by banning all "personal electronic devices" (to borrow the FAA's term) from the interrogation rooms. Just a security precaution, you understand; we'll give it right back to you when we're done. (You know, the kid might have an IED in his iPod, or something.)

cjcDecember 11, 2007 5:06 PM

As for use of the recording:

There is a legal principle, I forget the name, where otherwise inadmissible evidence can be used to refute testimony that is perjurous (word?). That is, if the police found something in a search that was excluded from evidence, you could not go into court and testify that the police searched you and did not find that thing.

I saw it on Law & Order ten years ago or so. It must be true.

Element of SurpriseDecember 11, 2007 5:54 PM

@Double Standard:

[1] Certainly police are responsible for only a very small percentage of murders and assaults. The blog post is about perjury: from reports of convictions that have been overturned for various causes, it seems likely that wrongful charges and convictions happen far more often than extreme cases of unnecessary police violence. Such wrongful charges and convictions quite possibly affect many thousands of Americans. Why not take steps to reduce this percentage?

[2] I haven't seen any suggestion here that recording interrogations would make police crime or other misconduct impossible. Security mechanisms like door locks don't make crime impossible: they can increase the cost and risk, and thereby help to reduce the problem.

Perhaps someone will explain why not recording interrogations would be preferable to recording them?

JeremyDecember 11, 2007 6:24 PM

Obviously cameras in interrogation rooms don't solve the case where there's a massive conspiracy of all the police in the building to cooperate in illegal activities.

However, it probably makes it more difficult for one person acting alone to avoid notice, and it should make it impossible either for police to claim something happened during normal interrogation that did not (since there's no video to support their claim when they should be), or to decide *after the fact* to lie about an interrogation (since the video is already recorded). And preventing those things seems like a reasonable goal.


And, Double Standard, telling the victim of a major crime (or her relatives) that it could have been worse is generally cruel even if the possibility you propose actually IS worse, so that's a rather weak argument. Especially since part of the "badness" of a crime is in its incidental damages to society (e.g. weakening law enforcement), rather than direct damages to the victim.

Double StandardDecember 11, 2007 7:24 PM

@Element of Surprise

"The blog post is about perjury"

I was replying to dragonfrog, who had asked about assault.

"Perhaps someone will explain why not recording interrogations would be preferable to recording them?"

Perhaps someone should explain why having crime in society is better than having no crime at all.

Well, it isn't better. But it's also not something that can be accomplished. The point to remember is that if you roll the camera in Interrogation Room 1, you haven't prevented pre- or post- interrogations from happening in Room 2. In fact, you may have indirectly encouraged such off-camera activities. If the off-camera interrogations are the ones where illicit activity takes place, then the on-camera interrogations aren't much good, are they. The assumption that you can record ALL the interrogations (without putting cameras in every room of the building) is incorrect. Since the main purpose of recording interrogations is to monitor/prevent/manage police (mis?)behaviour, you should be able to see that the purpose is not fulfilled without ubiquitous camera coverage, and is easily subverted. (Unless, as I posted above, you think the female police officers will be ok with constant camera surveillance of the ladies' bathroom stalls. Even if they are ok with it, it doesn't matter currently, since there's not a state in the U.S. which doesn't have workplace laws which prohibit video monitoring of employees in the bathroom. Do you believe those laws should be amended? If not, then there's at least one room where it's easy to hide from the cameras.)

@Jeremy

"Double Standard, telling the victim of a major crime (or her relatives) that it could have been worse is generally cruel even if the possibility you propose actually IS worse, so that's a rather weak argument."

dragonfrog's argument was that crime1 could be judged to be worse than crime2, based purely on who committed it.

I pointed out that if crime2 is murder, and crime1 is battery (someone cuffed and beaten), few would find it possible to agree that crime1 was worse than crime2 merely because it was committed by a police officer.

After that post, dragonfrog amended his argument in a subsequent response.

Andre LePlumeDecember 11, 2007 9:04 PM

NYPD would never beat up somebody in a bathroom and then conspire to keep it secret. Just ask Abner Louima.

blind justice, but not dumb justiceDecember 11, 2007 9:31 PM

@silence,

And please don't forget that it was Governor Schwarzenneger who vetoed the bill that would have required taping of police interrogations, an idea recommended by a commission that included "prosecutors, defense lawyers, police representatives and scholars".

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/10/16/BA8OSQCR5.DTL

Illinois implemented such a law in 2003 after they were embarrassed to find several death row inmates proven innocent by DNA. Their bogus convictions resulted partly from really bad police practices, sometimes involving the use of easily influenced jailhouse snitches as the sole witnesses.

The arguments against a bill that would protect against these practices sound eerily similar to the arguments in favor of wholesale surveillance or those in favor of torture.

JackG'tDecember 11, 2007 9:53 PM

We would benefit, when considering issues concerning interrogations by any agency of government, from knowing what recording media were used, particularly whether the media were analog or digital. News reporting often does not produce that information in early stages of covering a subject. Aren't issues of distribution, reproduction, storage, and destruction or overwriting of interrogation records shaped by whether or to what extent recorded interrogations and their transcripts are in digital files?

JackG'tDecember 11, 2007 10:12 PM

I should have mentioned encryption, which along with file renaming could render interrogation recordings and transcripts completely unrecognizable to investigators.

Andre LePlumeDecember 11, 2007 11:37 PM

@bj!dj,

In Illinois, the 'bad police practices' also seem to have included torturing suspects. The city of Chicago is about to agree to a (IIRC) $20 mil settlement with a handful of victims. It's quite a sad tale.

Nomen PublicusDecember 12, 2007 12:36 AM

In the UK all formal police interviews must be recorded. The police keep one copy and the interviewee keeps the other. This protects both sides against accusations of improper behaviour by the other.

averrosDecember 12, 2007 1:47 AM

> The city of Chicago is about to agree to a (IIRC)
> $20 mil settlement with a handful of victims. It's
> quite a sad tale.

And the saddest part of it is that these $20mil are not going to be paid out of policemen's (and their bosses') pockets. These money are going to be extorted from innocent people (i.e. taxpayers).

Ain't this adding insult to injury really sweet?

Police *is* a criminal gang. Plain and simple.

PelleDecember 12, 2007 4:03 AM

I have very little trust for authorities, especially those who can use force lawfully to get their way, since the boundaries on that force are too often hazy. Mandatory filming/recording of all that goes on in an interrogation room is a great idea.

A recent case here in Sweden: night club security "officer"/goon is involved in a scuffle that is filmed by a third party. Goon then takes the camera from the third party and proceeds to beat the crap out of him for filming, causing brain damage and other nasty things to the victim who spends several days in hospital and several weeks recovering.

The night club has many security cameras filming the area around the entrance, but according to them *none* were functional that night.

Fortunately though there were a lot of witnesses, and I believe others were filming the beating with their cell phones and calling the police. It now looks like the goon will do jail time.

KieranDecember 12, 2007 4:32 AM

A couple of years back a couple of my friends got drunk, got noisy and climbed on a bus shelter. they got arrested, and although nothing much ever came of it there was a worrying period when it emerged the officers had falsely alleged that said drunken friends had swore and spat at them.

It occurred to me then that having some handy recording device operating at all times on a loop and then saving off the last few minutes on request would be a very useful tool against such abuse.

MarkDecember 12, 2007 4:43 AM

IIRC there have been cases where people have recorded police officers enguaging in questionable (if not criminal) behaviour. Yet when they have attempted to complain about the police officer's behaviour the police have been more interested in trying to find a law forbidding filming a police officer in public or on private property.
About the only way such filming could work is if cameras were to effectivly cover all areas of the police station and there was at least one copy of all recordings outside the control of the police. (Might not also be a bad idea for failure of more than a certain number of cameras or failure in certain patterns to automatically trigger the police station fire alarm.)

TomDecember 12, 2007 4:56 AM

"About the only way such filming could work is if cameras were to effectivly cover all areas of the police station and there was at least one copy of all recordings outside the control of the police."

Not necessarily - the British system works pretty well. Basically, if the police want to put into evidence something said by the suspect in custody, they have to prove that it wasn't obtained by oppression (which basically means violence or the threat thereof) or anything said or done that would render it unreliable. The video camera in that room was conveniently switched off? Too bad, that's suspicious enough that you're going to have a hard time proving it wasn't obtained by oppression. Make sure the police know that if they don't follow the rules the suspect is more likely to walk and they'll follow the rules a lot more.

Jeremy DuffyDecember 12, 2007 5:46 AM

I notice they used a transcript and not the tape itself. Probably because the tape wasn't admissable. Using a transcript would certainly cast reasonable doubt assuming the transcript could be shown to be valid.

That aside, is there a list somewhere of the laws about recording in given states?

MarkDecember 12, 2007 8:47 AM

@Tom
Not necessarily - the British system works pretty well.

There are a whole lot of procedural elements which are part of the British system, which appearently don't exist in the US. Such as a minimum of two police doing the questioning. The police having to identify themselves and anyone else present and give a time check at the start and end of the interview. As well as identifying if anyone leaves or enters the room whilst the interview is on going. It's also the person being questioned who chooses which tape they keep and which one the police keep.

KathrynDecember 12, 2007 9:06 AM

@Mark

Those procedures seem to be a good implementation. I like it! Can anyone come up with a reason why this kind of transperancy would be detrimental?

What is done in cases where the two tapes don't match when the case gets to trial?

andyinsdcaDecember 12, 2007 9:34 AM

I've always thought that ALL interactions between police officers and citizens/criminals should be securely audio/video recorded at all times. This provides 3 things.1:Protection for the citizen/crook, as the teenager has demonstrated. 2: Protection for the police from accusations of rape/excessive force, etc. 3: Investigational tool after an "incident" like a shooting, car accident, use of force, etc. involving a cop.

The only cops that would be against this would be those that have nothing to hide. And they do NOT have the same expectation of privacy/security that a citizen has. In this case, saying "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" isn't just sarcasm, it's true.

paulDecember 12, 2007 10:37 AM

I'm always more than a little suspicious of arguments that say a safeguard shouldn't be put in place because evildoers could work around it if they really wanted to. Documenting behavior inside police stations is cheap enough that it seems like a sensible idea. (Of course, there will be some interesting issues about not catching potentially privileged communications, e.g. leaving the tape running in the room while the suspect is conferring with a lawyer.)

bzelbobDecember 12, 2007 10:57 AM

If police are not willing to tape any interrogations (and provide you with copies) I would seriously think about invoking my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and say nothing to them at all.

See the following links for info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution#Self-Incrimination

This document also shows that Police and corrections officers have certain rights when they themselves are being interrogated:
http://myfloridalegal.com/ago.nsf/printview/6F1A16FE971F0A71852571C7004E87D1

Look to section 2 in the bottom which starts -
"[2] Section 112.532(1),. Fla. Stat., sets forth the conditions under which a law enforcement officer or correctional officer may be interrogated, as follows:"

Perhaps someone can check and see if FL (or other states) have interrogation guidelines for arrestees other than police officers.

dragonfrogDecember 12, 2007 11:03 AM

@Double Standard

This is probably dragging the discussion out longer than it should be - but I will clarify that I stand by my original statement, with the "or worse" in it. I'm not revising anything.

You compare assault to murder - obviously murder is always the worse crime, no matter who's doing each. There is a limit to the elasticity of that "or worse". But the elasticity is also not zero - for example:

(1) A suspect in an interrogation room argues with his interrogator. The cop winds up as though to punch the suspect, but does not actually hit him.

(2) A patron at a bar argues with a fellow patron. One patron suddenly punches the other in the face.

Under Canadian law at least, (1) is simple assault; (2) is assault and battery. And yet, (1) is worse than (2).

In (1) the suspect is helpless. He has every reason to believe that fighting back would lead to a severe beating, possibly even being shot dead in "self defense".* It's more likely he'll confess falsely and end up serving jail time for someone else's crime, pretty much ruining his entire personal and professional life.

In (2) the victim can generally just back off and expect to be alright. The attacker will likely not want to be seen attacking someone who is not being aggressive, when he's surrounded by bouncers and the general public. Even if he does press the attack, the victim can fight back with a general expectation of not being murdered.

In fact (2) happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I just stepped back, the fellow raged and postured a bit, and no more harm was done. It was annoying, and put me in a bad mood for an hour or so, but I tried not to let it ruin my night. Now try to imagine just ordering a coffee and laughing off (1).

* If the suspect is in Canada, he's probably read about the recent death of Ian Bush, shot in the back of the head "in self defense". The cop was incapable of explaining just how he shot Mr. Bush in the back of the head when Bush supposedly had him pinned face down on the ground.

dragonfrogDecember 12, 2007 11:06 AM

@bzelbob

Out of curiosity - why would you think of invoking your right to silence only if you can't get a copy of your own interrogation tapes?

I can't imagine a single circumstance in which you would be better off by accepting an interrogation than by refusing one.

A LawyerDecember 12, 2007 12:32 PM

"Can any of the lawyers out there comment on rules of evidence in the majority states on this?"

Sure, I can. Evidence illegally obtained is generally not admissible. In this case, the legality of the tape recording varies from state to state. However, most people on this blog are confusing recording telephone conversations (which are wiretaps) with in-person conversations. In some states, that distinction matters.

That said, in most states you can use evidence not otherwise admissible to impeach the testimony of any witness. "Impeach" means to cast doubt as to the witness's credibility. In this case, the officer testified that an interrogation did not occur. The defense attorney was allowed to introduce the secret recording to show that the officer was lying. Had the officer never said anything about the interrogation, the evidence would not have been admissible.

Any decent defense attorney would have played this the same way, confronting the officer about the interrogation first, and then attacking his credibility with the tape.

Jared LesslDecember 12, 2007 12:37 PM

@Double Standard

There's also the matter of the police not doing the job they are tasked with.

On a simple one-to-one comparison, yes being murdered by a thief in my house is worse than being worked over a bit by a cop. But that's not the full extent of it. If the cop is corrupt enough to only care about arresting _someone_ and not worry if it's a proper arrest, then what chance for justice does the victim of a more serious crime have, regardless of who committed it? And if criminals are fairly safe because they know cops will not look too hard for them, how is that any safer for the rest of us?

A normal crime is an assault upon a person. A crime by a cop, using his position in power to deliberately corrupt the system, is an assault against _everyone_ who lives under and depends on that system for their safety. It's the reason why Watergate was far worse than a simple B&E, why state-sanctioned torture is worse than anything Joe Pesci can dish out, why summary execution is worse than simple murder. Because its effects spread far beyond the immediate victim.

We believe it's better that a guilty man go free than an innocent man be wrongfully imprisoned, and for good reason! The innocent outnumber the guilty by a hefty margin, and a high rate of false positives will harm vastly more people than the same rate of false negatives. When police start coercing confessions, we don't get security, we get theater. We have to pay the costs without getting any of the corresponding benefits.

bzelbobDecember 12, 2007 12:50 PM

@dragonfrog,

Sorry if I didn't make myself clear, getting copies of interrogation tapes would be a necessary (but not sufficient) condition to answer questions. Having a lawyer present would be another one, at least for me.

Also, this is all based on the notion that I am innocent. If I am guilty, then you are right and I can see no real reason to say anything at all directly to the police.

If I am innocent and they arrest me, then I would think I have a reason to answer their questions so they can eliminate me as a suspect and let me go.

Definitely something for me to think about.

Begonia BuzzkillDecember 12, 2007 4:47 PM

Secret tapes -- one can say didn't know mp3 player was taping at the time -- oops, accident.

Second to out nasty boss: send secret tape to the press, not so secret anymore!

Pat CahalanDecember 12, 2007 5:23 PM

Regarding the distinction between state and federal law and telephone conversation recordings:

Is it legal to tape record telephone calls?

The state and federal laws mentioned above deal primarily with wiretapping and eavesdropping by law enforcement officials. In addition to these laws, both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have acknowledged the importance of privacy in telephone conversations by placing additional restrictions on tape recording such conversations.

California law does not allow tape recording of telephone calls unless all parties to the conversation consent (California Penal Code 632), or they are notified of the recording by a distinct "beep tone" warning (CPUC General Order 107-B(II)(A)(5)). However, tape recordings can legally be made if an individual or members of one's family are threatened with kidnapping, extortion, bribery or another felony involving violence. The person receiving the threats can make a tape recording without informing the other party. (California Penal Code 633.5)

Federal law allows recording of phone calls and other electronic communications with the consent of at least one party to the call. A majority of the states and territories have adopted laws based on the federal standard. But 12 states, including California, require the consent of all parties to the call. These are are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. For a state-by-state guide to taping laws, including a discussion of federal law and references to caselaw, see the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press guide, www.rcfp.org/taping/ .

These laws and regulations generally do not apply to law enforcement investigations, emergency situations or patently unlawful conversations. The FCC has acknowledged that these regulations are difficult to enforce, and violations are virtually impossible to detect. Consumers should not be lulled into a false sense of security that their call is private simply because there is no notice of recording.

Furthermore, it is not always clear which law, state or federal, applies to specific situations. This depends on where the call originates, why the recording is being made and who places the call. To stay within the law, you may wish to refrain from taping calls you make, but be aware that in certain situations others may be recording your conversations with them.

The California Supreme Court held in Kearney v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc. , ___ Cal.4th ___ (July 13, 2006) that out-of-state businesses are prohibited from monitoring or recording their telephone calls with California residents, even if that conduct takes place in any of the states where only one party's consent is required to lawfully monitor or record a telephone call. Thus, California 's two-party consent law governs any calls between a company's location in a one-party consent state and customers located in California .

(source: http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs9-wrtp.htm#wt2)

Pat CahalanDecember 12, 2007 5:37 PM

Note, I'm not a lawyer, but looking through most of the statues mentioned at those previously linked cites would lead me to believe that it is perfectly acceptable to make *your own* recording of a conversation that someone else is already recording, or claiming to record.

That is, if you're being interrogated by the police and they have a tape recorder running, or they've warned you that the conversation is being recorded, this is also giving their implied consent to be recorded, and making your own personal recording would pass through most of these laws with flying colors. You don't have to inform them separately that you're recording.

UNTERDecember 12, 2007 5:47 PM

@Double Standard:
""Worse crimes, yes - worse because of who commits them."

Well, by your standard then, you should be able to console the family of a murder victim by explaining to them that, "Hey, at least he wasn't handcuffed and beaten by a cop. That would have been worse than being murdered by this drug addict.""

You are an ass, unquestionably. The proper analogy is between a random street murder and being murdered by the cops. Is there any doubt that a family would be more upset if the cops invaded their home and murdered a family member, than if some street thugs did so? Not only would they have a murder to deal with, but the added fear that the authorities themselves are a danger.

You're thinking is in line with saying that the Soviet Union's totalitarian state system was no worse than a local drug runner intimidating the neighborhood. Making such a childish statement suggests that you are rationalizing a pre-conceived notion rather than actually advancing an argument. I guess in your world Nazi death camps are the equivalent of junkies with guns, eh?

Where do you people come from?

Terry ClothDecember 12, 2007 8:09 PM

@Double Standard: ``Well, by your standard then, you should be able to console the family of a murder victim by explaining to them that, "Hey, at least he wasn't handcuffed and beaten by a cop. That would have been worse than being murdered by this drug addict."''

Even worse is letting the murderer go because police actions caused reasonable doubt as to whether they had the right person. I'll let you decide which is worse if the wrong person is convicted because of police brutality. If you check these references, you may be surprised:

From _The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin_ (available at http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Revealing+incommunicado:+electronic+recording+of+police+interrogations-a0157038154 ):

``[D]epartments that electronically record obtained more incriminating information when they recorded than when they did not.''

``Departments that use electronic recording overwhelmingly report their experiences as positive.''

A report at the Northwestern University School of Law (found at http://www.law.northwestern.edu/depts/clinic/wrongful/documents/SullivanReport.pdf ) observes that, for police departments videotaping interrogations

``Their experiences have been uniformly positive.''

(Google for /police "recording interrogations" conviction/ for more)

Terry ClothDecember 12, 2007 8:16 PM

@David: ``If they are recorded, the DA had to know about the perjury too unless he/she neglected to watch the tape, or it was destroyed....''

Funny you should mention that. A gentleman named Russo was kept in jail for seven months because a Bridgeport, Connecticut, cop had tossed a videotape in a desk drawer and left it there. The tape clearly showed Mr. Russo was innocent.

Check out Russo v. City of Bridgeport

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/browse_case.pl?court=2nd&month=2&year=07 (precis)


http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:rzGQIsF01j8J:caselaw.findlaw.com/data2/circs/2nd/054302p.pdf+%22russo+v.+bridgeport
(Text of decision in which a Federal court tells the state court they blew it.)

Terry ClothDecember 12, 2007 8:18 PM

@Double Standard: ``1.) What makes you think [....] 2.) If he did appear [....] 3.) You ever been [....]''

So, you're saying that because there may be some loopholes in the safeguard, the safeguard should be discarded entirely?

DCGDecember 12, 2007 10:39 PM

One potential solution is triplicate recordings: a copy for the police, a copy for the suspect/witness (or his/her lawyer), a copy for the state archives.

Bruce SchneierDecember 13, 2007 2:59 AM

"'If there's one place I think cameras should be rolling at all times, it's in police station interrogation rooms.'

"Right. It'll help to build that Wholesale Surveillance State that you've spoken about, and that'll be another step forward. Oh, wait.

"Do you honestly think more (or worse?) crime happens in police station interrogation rooms than on the corner of __th and __th streets in any of the top 100 highest-crime neighborhoods in the world?"

It's not a matter of putting cameras in places where there's the most crime. The point is to put cameras where they can actually do some good.

Cameras don't deter crime; that's been documented in a zillion places. So it just doesn't make sense to put them in the "100 highest crime-ridden neighborhoods in the world."

Cameras are about power. There's a power imbalance between the police (lots of power) and the people (not a lot of power). Cameras increase the power of the entity that uses them.

Giving more power to the police by increasing the surveillance state is bad, because it increases the power difference between the police and the people. (Your politics is libertarian, so this kind of argument will feel familiar.) Giving more power to the people decreases the power differential between the police and the people, and is good.

That's the way to think about cameras. That's why putting them in police interrogation rooms doesn't "help to build that Wholesale Surveillance State," and that's why it's a good idea.

Bruce SchneierDecember 13, 2007 3:01 AM

"Sorry it probably won't work all that will happen is the police officers will get wiser to the risk and find out where they can make the threats where they are either not being recorded or where they know the mics will not pick them up."

It's not perfect for the reasons you describe, but it does mean that all admissable evidence from interrogations is leagal -- and that's a huge win.

Bruce SchneierDecember 13, 2007 3:03 AM

"What strikes me as surprising is that the recording was admitted into evidence. I guess I was always under the impression that conversations recorded in that manner where not admissible in court."

In the U.S., there are huge differences state to state.

gregDecember 13, 2007 6:12 AM

In NZ any time you are one of the party included in the conversation you are permitted to recored it without notification of the other party. I think making the thing public however is a different story.

I have used it once with Baycorp (Debt collection agent). They had lied to me before so I knew they would go back on there word. You should have seen there faces when i showed them the copy of the tape.

bobDecember 13, 2007 8:19 AM

Several years back the governor of Illinois commuted ALL death sentences because they discovered that a Chicago detective had faked evidence in EVERY prosecution he was involved in (something like 45 people sent to jail for crimes that they had, at a minimum, not been legitimately proven to commit).

The only possible excuse for not recording police interrogations on video and retaining them for at least ~10 years (perpetually if actually used in a prosecution) is that you intend to violate the civil rights of the suspect. Any statement (made in a police station), especially a purported confession, which occurs NOT on camera should be inadmissible.

There should also be some sort of tamper indicator in the scene as well to make faking it more difficult. For this purpose analog cameras would probably be better than digital.

All police cruisers should have them as well.

And all radar/laser speed guns should have a "gunsight camera" which snaps a photo concurrent with the speed reading and immutable time/date to prove that they were not taking a picture of a stationary signpost from a moving car and then later tagging someone they dont like.

Its ironic that governments want to put cameras everywhere EXCEPT where they would really make peoples lives better!

Double StandardDecember 13, 2007 1:09 PM

@Bruce

"Cameras don't deter crime;"

How silly. Of course they do. What's been documented in a "zillion" places is that many believe there are more effective ways to deter or otherwise deal with crime.

The problem with determining how well surveillance cameras deter crime is the same problem you have with determining the value of any deterrent: how do you measure the number of crimes that didn't happen?

You can refer to one particular street in a given city, and compare last year's crime statistics with this year's (12 months after installing video surveillance.) If the stats show twice as many instances of every type of crime being measured AFTER the cameras were installed, you could say that cameras INCREASE crime, right? But you know there's more to the story. You could just as easily conclude that if the cameras had not been there, the crime increase would have been 200%, instead of just 100%. You're again faced with trying to prove or disprove how many occurrences DIDN'T happen.

Your opinion that cameras don't deter crime is just as valuable as my opinion that they do.

What's interesting is that you're willing to suspend your belief that "cameras don't deter crime" when it suits your agenda, and you become momentarily pro-surveillance.

Additionally, who said a camera's value is wholly as a deterrent? You think there's no value when the perp says "I wasn't there!", and we can see his face clearly when we play back the surveillance tape of the place and time in question? We just saved an expensive jury trial. (Think of Chevy Chase's photo in "Seems Like Old Times" when Charles Grodin, playing the prosecutor, says as he looks at the CCTV-captured shot of Chevy snapped during the bank robbery, and says, "God, our wedding photos didn't turn out this good.") No value when red-light runners get in the mail a photo of themselves running the red light (along with an expensive ticket)? They're not going to think twice the next time the light turns yellow at that intersection that they cross every day in their commute? How many more examples do you need? C'mon.

"Giving more power to the police by increasing the surveillance state is bad, because it increases the power difference between the police and the people ... Giving more power to the people decreases the power differential between the police and the people, and is good ... That's the way to think about cameras."

OK. Now take your principle, and apply it to guns. Whoops. You just took another step toward libertarianism. Let me guess: you're going to try to explain how private gun owernship doesn't "decrease the power differential between the police and the people." Or suddenly decreasing that power differential doesn't seem as important?

Double StandardDecember 13, 2007 1:23 PM

@Terry Cloth

"So, you're saying that because there may be some loopholes in the safeguard, the safeguard should be discarded entirely?"

How many loopholes do there need to be, before it's recognized as a poor idea?

Pat CahalanDecember 13, 2007 3:11 PM

@ Double Standard

> But you know there's more to the story. You could just as easily conclude that if the
> cameras had not been there, the crime increase would have been 200%, instead of
> just 100%. You're again faced with trying to prove or disprove how many
> occurrences DIDN'T happen.

Well designed social science experiments use various methods to provide controls for this sort of thing. For example, if the crime rate in multiple regions of the remainder of the entire city follow certain trends, this is additional evidence. Comparing two neighborhoods with very similar crime rates and other demographic and geographical conditions and using one as a control (no cameras) is additional evidence. If you don't design these sorts of studies (or read a significant number of them), you are probably not qualified to estimate their accuracy.

> Your opinion that cameras don't deter crime is just as valuable as my opinion
> that they do.

There are several levels of difference between belief/faith, uninformed opinion, informed opinion, expert opinion, experimentally confirmed claim, body of experimentally confirmed knowledge, and axiomatic truth.

There is a body of experimentally confirmed knowledge that supports Bruce's expert opinion that cameras generally don't produce a statistically significant deterrent to crime. One can argue that the investigatory advantages of video recording itself produces a deterrent effect (criminals convicted are off the streets and can't commit other crimes), but the key here is statistical significance.

> Additionally, who said a camera's value is wholly as a deterrent?

This is actually Bruce's point. Any recording device's real value is in audit control, not deterrence. You are correct that audit controls can be avoided by a variety of methods, but generally avoiding an audit control is itself detectable. So we may not see bad cops doing bad things on tape, but there will be holes in the video record that must be explained.

This in and of itself also explains why cameras are generally effective only in controlled domains like recording interrogations, for audit purposes. Interrogating a suspect is itself a process that ought to be available for audit - it perforce *must* be subjected to analysis by a judge or a jury (assuming the perp says something that may lead to his/her going to trial), and an audio and video recording of the process can go a very, very long way towards eliminating reasonable doubt. With no record, it's a he said/she said. With a record, there is an independent corroboration of the tale.

The flip side of this is that the staggeringly vast body of human activity has no need of audit, because we don't have any sort of reasonable need for information assurance over the general activities of the populace.

Pat CahalanDecember 13, 2007 3:19 PM

@ Double Standard

B> Giving more power to the people decreases the power differential between
B> the police and the people, and is good

DS> OK. Now take your principle, and apply it to guns.

Bad analogy.

Giving the people access to recording of police behavior helps correct the power imbalance between the people and the cops.

Giving the people access to firearms helps correct the power imbalance between the people and the cops, but creates a power imbalance between the people and the people.

I'm not advocating either side of the gun control issue, I'm just pointing out that it is not representative of the sorts of domain problems involved with video recording.

To me, the biggest question about *requiring* video and audio recording of interrogations is how you handle failure cases. Losing a recording, or having the audio of a recording or video of a recording being damaged, is not immediate evidence of malfeasance on the part of the authorities, and shouldn't immediately lead to the results of the interrogating being inadmissible. However, it will be very difficult (once a standard of "all interrogations are recorded") for an average jury to properly weigh the value of an interrogation that doesn't meet the standard without someone on the jury automatically defaulting to, "Hey, there's reasonable doubt!" I think this is a very real problem.

Double StandardDecember 13, 2007 3:35 PM

@Pat Calahan

"Well designed social science experiments use various methods to provide controls for this sort of thing."

Name one. That sounds like a sociology professor trying to keep his job. It's notoriously difficult to measure things that DON'T happen, even given the calcualtions of the sharpest social "scientist" available. To assert that one factor, uniquely present or removed, outside of the controlled conditions of a lab, in a neighborhood of a high-crime city, can be credited with affecting the denizens' behaviour one way or another, is a stretch to which not many professors would attach their good name.

"There is a body of experimentally confirmed knowledge that supports Bruce's expert opinion that cameras generally don't produce a statistically significant deterrent to crime."

So cite it.

Double StandardDecember 13, 2007 3:49 PM

@Pat Calahan

"Giving the people access to firearms helps correct the power imbalance between the people and the cops, but creates a power imbalance between the people and the people."

Well, by your logic, giving the people access to surveillance cameras creates a power imbalance between the people and the people.

"Bad analogy ... it is not representative of the sorts of domain problems involved with video recording."

Sure it is. Exclusive access to an set of objects (guns, cameras) by one group (the police) which has a legally sanctioned position of power over another group (the people) either increases, decreases, or doesn't affect the "power differential" between the two groups. Remove exclusive access and replace it with equal access, and the power differential changes.

You certainly can't disagree, as a good liberal, with the principle of equal access, can you?

Pat CahalanDecember 13, 2007 3:58 PM

> To assert that one factor, uniquely present or removed, outside of the controlled
> conditions of a lab, in a neighborhood of a high-crime city, can be credited with
> affecting the denizens' behaviour one way or another

Yes, experimentation outside of the lab is perforce more subject to uncontrolled factors. That's the whole point of doing more analysis to provide justified controls for those factors. You're kidding yourself if you believe that experiments *in* a lab are wholly immune to uncontrolled factors. You are correct that a single study is enough to show correlation, but not causation. However, a substantial body of studies showing similar correlations, with background analysis in other fields providing justifications, does lead to theory confirmation.

> is a stretch to which not many professors would attach their good name.

Actually, entire departments of professors at virtually every institution of higher learning do this (if by "this", you mean experimentation outside a lab) routinely in anthropology, sociology, economics, social science, humanities, etc.

> So cite it.

I don't know that doing so would be constructive, if you're a hardline positivist. You can fire up google scholar, or Lexus-Nexus, or EBSCO, or whatever your academic search engine of choice is and search for "effectiveness of surveillance cameras crime deterrent" with a mixed bag of responses. There are some studies that support video surveillance as a deterrent, and some that don't. Generally speaking, those that do are particularly contextual (ie, "Video surveillance produced a reduction in crime in this neighborhood"), and those that don't are less contextual ("Video surveillance does not show a marked decrease in crime").

If you don't believe in experimentation outside the lab, you're going to discard studies of the second type by your own beliefs, that's fine. But the flip side of that is that you can't turn around and claim that experiments with results supporting your position have any validity, either.

So, we're discarding evidence and arguing our own interpretations of human nature outside of any structure; that's a religious debate, and one at which we're not likely to achieve any headway.

Put another way, if you don't believe that experimentation can be done outside a lab, what evidence do you have that cameras reduce crime? You have none, other than your belief that they do. You won't accept my evidence, since you regard it as invalid, so as far as you're concerned this is a discussion about opinion.

Okay, then I'll take the debate and move it onto new ground: if we're talking about an opinion-based function of security cameras (deterrence) and a fact-based function of security cameras (audit), then let's just forget the deterrence aspect altogether and talk about audit.

Would you agree that auditing police interrogations is more valuable than auditing the general behavior of the populace?

Pat CahalanDecember 13, 2007 4:11 PM

> Sure it is.

No, it's not.

If I use cameras to record police activities, and I have access to them as a citizen, it affects the imbalance between me and the police. It has very little effect on my relationship with other citizens.

If I have a gun, I can use it to "equalize" the power imbalance between myself and the police, but I can also use it to create a power imbalance between myself and someone that doesn't have a gun.

The camera failure scenario has very little effect on my fellow citizens. The gun failure scenario does.

> Well, by your logic, giving the people access to surveillance cameras creates a
> power imbalance between the people and the people.

It does if you're talking about surveillance cameras recording everybody everywhere, viewable by everybody everywhere. I don't think that's a terribly grand idea, either.

> You certainly can't disagree, as a good liberal, with the principle of equal
> access, can you?

Let me rephrase that last question, since you don't know anything about me or my politics, to "You certainly can't disagree with the principle of equal access, can you?"

Yes, I can. Equal access and equitable access are two different things. Using surveillance technology as an audit control on the behavior of a limited set of the populace (the police), who have enhanced authorities and should be audited for proper use of that authority is a good idea. That doesn't mean that everyone should be recorded.

Clive RobinsonDecember 14, 2007 1:25 PM

@ Double Standard & Pat Calahan

If you search back in Bruce's blog you will find a number of refrences to studies carried out in the United Kingdom (GB) which currently is the record holder in urban fixed CCTV on the general populace and (press) reportedly has about 20 times the number of cameras per head of urban population than the next country down the list (which is about the same differential as between the U.S. armed forces and the next country down in the armaments list).

If you read the reports several things become clear,

1) CCTV on fixed small areas with short responder response times is an effective solution.

2) CCTV with no or slow responder response times is effectivly usless for crime prevention.

3) Non covert CCTV in urban areas with high rates of street crime initialy (only) reduce certain types of street crime (effectivly ineffective against drunkeness etc).

4) Urban areas without CCTV around areas that recently have had CCTV installed see an increas in street crime proportianl to the drop in the area where CCTV has recently been installed (so called Crime Displacment effect).

5) Urban areas where semi or fully covert CCTV has been installed also see a drop off in certain types of street crime (this initialy corelates to the increased arrest rate but fairly quickly drops to non covert deterent levels).

6) After a fairly short period of time (usually less than a year) street crime starts to increas again often significantly faster then surounding urban areas and general rise in street crime. This appears in part to be proportinal to responder response times.

7) After a fairly short period of time all known CCTV instalations start to become ineffective for identification purposes as street criminals learn how to cover up any identifying features.

Now read what you want into the above but my view point is that the criminals initialy move out of an area either as a direct response to the visable instalation of the CCTV or to the increased arrest rate covert CCTV gives.

However if there is no rapid response from responders (ie Police) then the crime levels quickly rise back to near the original levels.

So short term reports (that the U.K. politicos just love to talk about) show CCTV works.

However as other areas get CCTV coverage the crime moves back. More importantly the criminals involved have either learned how to live with the change in there "working circumstances" or are (sometimes) removed from the streets to carry out other activities such as sitting all day watching TV or playing on Play Stations etc in U.K. prisons (as has been reported in the U.K. Press on more than one occasion). Oh and the U.K. also has the highest rate of incaceration against population and still has significantly rising crime levels (go figure that one).

These "don't work" effects are clearly shown in the longterm reports that usually show the capital investment in CCTV is not justiffied after even a fairly short time period (these reports the politicos just love not to read and when pushed come out with such statments as "recent developments are showing new trends in effectivness" and other meaningless drivel).

In essense CCTV is usefull for two purposes,

A) Evidence gathering prior to arrest (covert CCTV and inveriant crime such as drunken behaviour).

B) Providing "extended eyes" to responders of crime in progress.

Obviously from this option B only becomes of any use in crime reduction / prevention if the responder response time is within the window where an arrest is possible and conviction probable.

What has not yet been reported but would be of significant interest is what "Random CCTV" would do in an area. This is an augmentation of the "Eyes in the Sky" use of Police airborn CCTV. Which is something some U.K. Police forces are currently looking at with unmaned drones. Effectivly the CCTV moves around so the criminals do not know where or when they are being observed. Provided it is always backed up by fast response I susspect it will become quite effective.

Part of the reasoning behind this is due to the observed effectivness of fixed point speed cameras -v- randomly placed speed cameras. There is an easy way to measure success / failure with this in the number of fines raised. It has been found that fines from a fixed point camera follow the same trends as shown by crime to CCTV (only much faster). However the use of random placed speed cameras shows an entirly different (and more profitable) response pattern, in that constantly moving the cameras around effectivly makes them "new" all the time.

One inconveniant fact is that the introduction of random speed cameras is usually acompanied by an increase in the road accident rate in the general area. As one TV presenter put it "It's because people spend more time with their eyes off the road looking for the cameras".

AnonymousDecember 15, 2007 12:04 AM

@Pat Calahan

"To me, the biggest question about *requiring* video and audio recording of interrogations is how you handle failure cases."

What the bloody hell are you talking about? If the prosecutor can not present the evidence -- with the entire chain of custody -- then that is that: it is simply inadmissible. This applies to any kind of evidence, not just recorded "confessions" and the like. The prosecutor does not get to stand up and say "Trust us! We had the smoking gun in our hands, but it has now been lost. An accident, can happen to anyone. You know."

Pat CahalanDecember 15, 2007 6:17 PM

@ Anonymous

So you're saying that if I record 4 hours of interviewing a suspect and 15 seconds of audio is garbled, after the suspect has already been recorded saying 5 things that will lead to a successful prosecution, I must throw the recording out? I have 2:24 of recorded interview which is useful evidence, 0:15 of garbled audio, and then 2:35:45 of additional recording that I don't even care to present as evidence?

That's crazy.

Allowing the recording as evidence with instructions to the jury to take the faulty part of the recording into account when evaluating the evidence makes way more sense.

I'm not talking about a missing recording, I'm talking about not having a perfect one.

Double StandardDecember 17, 2007 2:47 PM

Here's an interesting take:

"...why should people who make their living on the taxpayers' dime enjoy greater freedom from public scrutiny than the taxpayers themselves? Civil liberties groups have begun supporting the trend toward a video-enabled populace. The Eastern Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sends out volunteers with cameras..."

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/4237005.html

Peter E RetepDecember 18, 2007 10:56 AM

Different laws in different localuities are opened for thought here.
i.e. Gerry Brown created a law to make it lillegal to record evidence without the other party's knowledge [punishable by jail time],
but it is permissable to conduct an authorized investigation and to use memory aids [US Supreme Court].
People shop and hop jurisdictions to suit their recording privacy desires.
Also, though, all public proceedings may be recorded - is a police interview with a non-arrestee a public proceeding?
Or was the recording merely an aid to assist in the recall of testimony?
All interesting questions.

Element of SurpriseMarch 2, 2009 3:39 PM

Apparently, a serious criminal has been caught in the commission of a serious crime.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,502544,00.html

The more police are recorded in their dealings with citizens, the better. This helps to protect the public, and helps to protect law-abiding officers. It is just good policy.

Talmadge BeavanNovember 13, 2009 4:36 AM

Dear Sir,

I have been studying cryptography for about a couple years. I ciphered enigma pro but there was another txt encrypter called ACD pro I do believe and I had problems with it. I decided to read books on encryption and then I got my maths books out and am studying quatratic equations and radians and degrees and all sorts that I could use to encrypt characters into a code. Also I can easily convert them into binary. My reasearch is theoretical and I would like to know simple software to use to make encryption patterns so I can make a txt encryptor. I am an amateur but I am hooked. I have many theorems to try out. I love the story of Bletchly Park and the Submerine film to capture the enigma. I want to make my own code. I have studied Advanced level pure, statistical and mechanical maths. I am intrigued. I need to load a programm with mathamatical formular. I hope also later to make my own software to use in txt encription. Perhaps later I shall encrypt software. All the encrytion systems in the puplic dormain are of no use, as cracker programs can be developed to cipher them. I am not sure who to give my work to, but in general I like your website and your philosophy toward authority.

Most obliged

Talmadge Beavan

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