In my last post, I discussed the significance of the new US DOJ policy, effective July 11, that creates a presumption that all federal law enforcement agencies — the FBI, the DEA, ATF, and all the rest, will record interrogations of suspects. This will put these federal agencies on par with the several states and many hundreds of state and local departments that have recorded interrogations for years, as a matter of course.
I commented that, without access to the DOJ memorandum itself, there was no way to know whether the new policy would require recording of the whole interrogation, or just part of it (usually, the part that shows a confession, but not what lead up to it). I promised to post again when I had more information.
The full DOJ memorandum is now public, and it requires that the agency records the full interrogation: not just the confession, but the whole session. Here’s what the memorandum says:
I. g. Scope of Recording. Electronic recording will begin a soon as the subject enters the interview area or room and will continue until the interview is completed.
For proponents of recording interrogation, this is good news. A partial recording could only give a partial picture of what went on in the interrogation room. At worst, a partial recording could be downright misleading; at the very least, a recording that only contained the confession at the end of the interrogation would tell us nothing about the context — about how the police obtained the interrogation. So the Scope of Recording requirement is a very important part of an effective recording system.