As a former police officer, I have tremendous respect for the men and women who serve the public on the front lines fighting crime and protecting our communities. A few years ago, when I learned of the terrible murder of 8-year-old Amy Yates in Carrollton, my thoughts were first and foremost with her family, whose loss is unimaginable. I also thought of the police involved, for there can be no job in law enforcement harder than informing parents of the violent death of their child. Like everyone in the community, I was eager to see her killer brought to justice, and hoped that the authorities used every means possible to make that happen. I was stunned when I learned that the wrong person – a 12-year-old boy – was convicted of the crime.
If that interrogation had been electronically recorded, the availability of a complete record would have provided important details about the questioning and clues about the credibility of the boy’s statements, making it likely that the investigation would have continued and the truth reached. These days, videotaping is used economically and effectively throughout our society. You can not hardly buy a candy bar at a convenience store or fill up at the gas station without being videotaped. While some police jurisdictions have made limited use of this technology, it is striking that we have not yet modernized our procedures to avail ourselves of a simple yet powerful tool. A full record of the interrogation helps protect the innocent (including protecting police from phony claims of misconduct). Equally importantly, recording provides the best possible evidence to ensure punishment of the guilty.
Timothy J Bearden