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FBI, in historic policy change, to record interrogations

By Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The FBI and several other U.S. federal law enforcement agencies will reverse a policy that has long prohibited the recording of interrogations of people held in custody, a Justice Department memo sent last week said.

The new policy, effective July 11, creates a presumption that agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will record video statements made by people who are in their custody prior to appearing in court.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video address on Thursday that the policy change was the result of a thorough review that concluded recordings would ensure an "objective account of key investigations and interactions with people who are held in federal custody."

Criminal defense lawyers have long advocated that the over 100-year-old ban on recordings be overturned in the interest of transparency.

"Recording interrogations protects the accused against police misconduct, protects law enforcement against false allegations, and protects public safety by ensuring a verbatim record of the interrogation process and any statements," said Jerry Cox, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in a statement on Wednesday.

There are some instances when recording will still not be allowed, such as when the interviewee refuses to be recorded or when doing so would threaten public safety or national security.

Hundreds of state and local jurisdictions across the United States currently record interrogations, according to data from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by G Crosse and Steve Orlofsky)

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