Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / News in Brief / Study targets police interrogation policies in Va.

Study targets police interrogation policies in Va.

(AP) Only a handful of law enforcement agencies in Virginia surveyed for a recent study require police interrogations to be recorded, and nearly a third do not have written interrogation policies.

The study, “Interrogation Policies,” was released Sunday. Students in the University of Virginia’s Innocence Project Student Group contacted more than 180 law enforcement agencies across Virginia and obtained 116 interrogation policies through Freedom of Information Act Requests.

Only nine of the 116 policies required some form of electronic recording of interrogations. Recordings of interrogations were an option in 58 of the 116 policies. The remainder asked that interrogations be recorded when feasible, according to the study.

While most of the policies allow recordings of interrogations, “very few agencies actually require doing so as a matter of policy, and few provide guidance on how to record, much less on the proper conduct of interrogations,” the study’s author, Brandon L. Garrett, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Fifty-eight agencies did not have written interrogation policies and 11 declined to provide them, Garrett said. Of those without policies, 15 were sheriff’s offices that did not have law enforcement responsibilities.

A few policies provided guidance on conducting juvenile interrogations. But none gave guidance on the interrogation of intellectually disabled individuals.

About one-third of the policies, 41 of 116, were brief, primarily noting that suspects must be read their Miranda rights.

Garrett said only a handful said anything about how to properly conduct an interview, or cautioned against feeding facts through leading questions.

Properly conducted and recorded police interrogations can help prevent false confessions, Garrett said.

Virginia does not have a model interrogation policy beyond staying within constitutional grounds. There is a model for policy for handling juvenile interrogations that includes videotaping.

Albemarle County Sheriff J.E. “Chip” Harding spent most of his 30-year career as an investigator with the Charlottesville Police Department. He said he was not a strong supporter of videotaping interrogations and primary interviews 15 years ago after the Charlottesville department began the practice.

Harding said he now sees that cases are strengthened by recording interrogations. He said recording eliminates most pretrial motions and creates a record that can be reviewed to ensure the interrogator did a proper job.

Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, and the group’s president, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo, are interested in developing training curriculum for officers.

“Garrett’s report raises some important points about interrogation policies and procedures. His research gives Virginia police chiefs and the VACP the opportunity to review what is in place in Virginia law enforcement agencies,” Schrad told the newspaper.

But she said some law enforcement agencies have not had funds to invest in recording equipment.

Two mentally disabled men in Virginia, Earl Washington Jr. of Culpeper and Curtis Jasper Moore of Emporia, were wrongly convicted of rapes and murders as a result of false confessions. Washington came within nine days of execution.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Leave a Reply