Sheriff Tim Davis shows off Gentry County’s new iRecord system.
Obtaining high-quality videotaped confessions that will hold up in court is as easy as flipping a switch.
According to a criminology professor at California State University, law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are successful at obtaining confessions from suspects about 60 percent of the time, typically relieving prosecutors of the burden of proof in trying cases. However, when defense attorneys challenge the validity of those videotaped confessions with motions to suppress, the guilty can sometimes walk, free to commit more crimes.
Bruce Fagerstrom, owner and president of WahlTek Inc., is trying to change that. Among other things, WahlTek provides voice processing document creation software and management services for law enforcement. iRecord is a digital video recording system that boasts 100% compliance with state and federal mandates.
Gentry County Sheriff Tim Davis said the newly purchased iRecord digital video recording system, purchased last fall with money from the county’s Restitution Fund, has already proven to be a great tool in investigations.
“One of the most important aspects of iRecord is that it’s PC-based. When an audio/video recording is made during an interrogation, it is recorded in a tamper-proof, 30-frame per second recording format directly onto the hard drive of the PC, which becomes the evidence vault. Every time someone views that interrogation, a chain of evidence printout with a time-date stamp is created, which is critical to admissibility issues,” he said, explaining that VHS recorders or DVRs, used by many departments, don’t contain those functionalities.
“When those cases get to court and the prosecutor is getting ready to show the taped confession to the jury, the defense attorney will sometimes ask, ‘Can you prove to us that this was done in a tamper-proof method?’ If the confession was captured by an old security camera recording to a DVR, the answer would have to be ‘No,’ which could make the whole thing inadmissible.”
However, Fagerstrom said the benefits of iRecord don’t stop there. Because iRecord is PCbased, the system can be networked to allow other authorized personnel to watch the interviews live as they’re being conducted, or later on their own office PCs. Optional features allow those watching live to send questions to the interviewer. Another important feature allows viewers to “bookmark” important points so it’s easier to locate them in subsequent viewings, which can be especially helpful in lengthy interviews. The system also provides text annotation, which allows interviewers to rapidly locate specific words, case numbers or phrases from recorded interviews and then play the corresponding audio/video segments instantly.
He said he recommends that departments purchasing the equipment install two separate hard drives for back-up, which allows the system to simultaneously record in both Windows and in MPEG format, the format “readable” by DVD players, making it more compatible and Gentry County Sheriff Tim Davis said the newly purchased iRecord digital video recording system, purchased last fall with money from the county’s Restitution Fund, has already proven to be a great tool in investigations. by Nancy Hogland Equipment promises a higher likelihood of conviction Sheriff Tim Davis shows off Gentry County’s new iRecord system. 17 easier to use in courtroom settings where TVs and DVD players typically are used.
Because WahlTek sells service with its products, technicians install the equipment where it will be unobtrusive yet produce the highest quality video and audio possible. That means confessions are easily understood – something else that can be impossible using traditional security system cameras.
Callaway and Gentry counties have purchased the system and Grundy County has a system on order. Gentry County Sheriff Tim Davis, whose office purchased the system in December, said they’re been using it continuously since it was installed.
“A new state law mandates that you record people in certain offenses but because it’s so easy to use – you flip a switch and it’s on – we record everyone we interview,” Sheriff Davis said, adding that he’s confident the new system will also greatly aid with convictions when suspects confess. “The camera produces a clear picture of the suspect and the quality of the recording is excellent,” said Davies. “The perpetrators won’t be able to come back later and lie that it wasn’t them or that they didn’t confess once they see the video,” he continued. “We’re very happy that our prosecutor approved this purchase.”
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