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Policing Today Article - Recording Revolution

Policing Today Article - Recording Revolution

Recording Revolution

'Original article published in Policing Today, September 2012'.

Digital interviewing technology will improve the quality of police interviews and drive up performance says Richard Mill, the MD of digital interview experts Business Systems. 

The iconic images of tape recorders perched on tables in police interview rooms are now  thankfully being confined to the history books, with many forces seeing the Policing Today Article - Recording Revolutionperformance benefits that can be realised by adopting digital interview technology.

Historically, the audio recording  of interviews was introduced in 1986 as part of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 to increase transparency and avoid allegations of mistreatment or coercion of suspects. Later came the introduction of video recordings for storing interviews and evidence in certain cases.

Gisli Gudjonsson, a leading international authority on investigative interviews has long argued that the standard of interviews in the UK is arguably much higher than the rest of the world  because the interviews are recorded.

He believes that it not only provides protection for suspects but can prevent officers falling foul of spurious claims from their interviewees.

As technology advances and the performance culture is firmly embedded into operational policing, forces are recognising  that tape-based solutions have their limitations. For instance, tapes are no longer manufactured and they generate poor sound quality. Nor are they easy to copy, transport, store or play back.

Recognising the need for change, the National Policing Improvement Agency devised a best practice framework  for digital interview recording solutions and Business Systems - in partnership with Damovo- was one of three companies  to be named an NPIA-preferred supplier.

Business Systems' Complete  Online Digital Evidence System (CODES) is a flexible system that is designed to facilitate the investigative interviewing of suspects, victims and witnesses. The technology includes voice and/or video recording equipment, including microphones and cameras. It also includes an interview management console with either a touch screen or keyboard and server-based data storage for quick and easy retrieval of interviews.

The system is unique in that forces can either replace their tapes with  the digital equivalent or go further and introduce a fully networked system that can allow for the sharing of interviews and other data with other criminal justice system partners.

Gwent Police is the latest force to adopt  the CODES technology and it is already seeing performance benefits, which extend beyond  the fact that the quality of recordings is enhanced and it is quicker to search and play back.

DS Martin Vaughan, an ACPO-approved interview advisor with the force explained that the technology enables supervisors to quality­ control  interviews and critically review their content which in turn can only improve performance. He said: ''The fact that the interviews are easy to store, play back and you can search them in a matter  of seconds means that supervisors are better able to quality control them. This is vital to ensure interviews are robust enough  to withstand potential challenges by the defence and to help put a compelling case to the court."

It has also had a positive effect on the quality of interviews and the performance of officers, as they now do not have to stop their interviews after 45 minutes to change a tape.

As well as helping  professionalise the whole interview  process, CODES can enhance the evidence management process as it allows officers to attach key forensic information such as CCTV footage and other images to the interview file. This ensures a more joined-up  approach  and means that vital evidence can be stored in one location and easily shared with authorised personnel.

CODES complies with  current and future Management of Police Information (MoPI) directives, along with the two new PACE Codes of Practice, E and F. It can also play a vital role in ensuring witnesses are able to present their evidence to a court without appearing  in person, in line with Special Measures.

The visual recording of witness interviews is an important service offered to the vulnerable  who might otherwise feel intimidated by being physically present in court. Many trials are discontinued or fail due to unreliability of witnesses.

The fact that the technology is less intrusive can also ensure witnesses feel more comfortable being interviewed. There is also a mobile  solution that can enable investigators to conduct their interviews in locations away from the police station -again leading to increased victim and witness satisfaction, and ultimately enhanced public  confidence in the criminal  justice system.

Looking  to the future, there is no denying that money is tight and chief officers will continue to have to make tough  decisions about how  they spend dwindling budgets. However, there is no getting away from the fact that as tapes become obsolete, forces will have no option  but to adopt digital interview  technologies. There is a compelling case that this new technology can support  improved performance and efficiency. It is one that will not be lost on chief officers who have to balance budgets and achieve more with less.

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