Last year, we gave President Barack Obama a Promise Kept for encouraging states to establish policies requiring law enforcement officers to videotape interrogations and confessions in capital cases.
Now, the administration has exceeded its original goals, with some federal agencies now taking on recording policies -- even beyond capital cases.
On May 22, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the FBI and several other federal law enforcement agencies will soon be expected to electronically record interviews with suspects in most instances.
"Creating an electronic record will ensure that we have an objective account of key investigations and interactions with people who are held in federal custody," Holder said in a news release. "It will allow us to document that detained individuals are afforded their constitutionally protected rights. And it will also provide federal law enforcement officials with a backstop, so that they have clear and indisputable records of important statements and confessions made by individuals who have been detained."
This is a major change for the FBI, whose policy previously prohibited recording unless authorized by a supervisor, according to a 2006 memo. The change also affects the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Marshals Service.
This move goes beyond Obama's promise, which had only said that the federal government would encourage states to adopt such policies.
Laws similar to one Obama spearheaded in Illinois as a state senator spread to a number of states during his first few years as president. By December 2013, 19 states and the District of Columbia had created such laws—some of which require recording in nearly all serious crimes, not just capital ones.
Discussions about recording interrogations at a federal level have been in the works for most of the Obama administration, NPR reported. Law enforcement officials learned of the policy change in a May 12 memo.
Under the law, which will take effect July 11, recording is not required in cases of national security or public safety, as well as when recording equipment is not available in time and if the suspect asks not to be recorded. However, the recording may be covert.
The Obama administration has gone above and beyond its original goals, so we are keeping this at Promise Kept.