Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement to the Council of the District of Columbia, Committee on the Judiciary, The Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chair, on May 19, 2005, at the Council Chamber, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
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Chairman Mendelson, members of the Committee, staff and guests … I appreciate the opportunity to update the Committee on the Metropolitan Police Department’s implementation of the District’s law on the electronic recording of custodial interrogations, and to offer comment on the new legislation now before the Committee, the “Electronic Recording Procedures and Penalties Act of 2005.” The text of my prepared remarks can be found on the MPD website:http://www.mpdc.dc.gov/
Let me begin by stating that the Metropolitan Police Department generally supports the “Electronic Recording Procedures and Penalties Act of 2005 ” because it would provide for one clear set of standards governing electronic recording of custodial interrogations. At the same time, the proposed legislation would remove some provisions of the Electronic Recording Procedures Act of 2004 that our Department has opposed on policy and operational grounds.
Specifically, the 2004 law creates an evidentiary presumption that certain statements, if not electronically recorded, are involuntary. This presumption would apply regardless of the reason the statement was not recorded -- whether due to equipment failure, inadvertent operator error, etc.
Our Department supports the electronic recording of custodial interrogations. And we support it not simply because electronic recording is the law in the District of Columbia. We support electronic recording because it is good, sound public policy that helps to protect the interests of both the MPD and the individuals being interrogated.
Electronic recording of interrogations has emerged as a “best practice” in the field of law enforcement, and our Department is committed to setting the standard for police policies and practices in the area of criminal investigations.