Thirty-four years ago in 1980, when I moved from patrol to criminal investigations in my hometown's police department, the unit had already been tape recording interrogations and witness statements for years. We knew nothing swayed a jury more than hearing a suspect's confession come from his own mouth. I didn't realize how progressive our policy was until I moved to metro Atlanta in 1989 where NO agencies recorded statements. The typical procedure involved a detective writing out a statement or confession by "transcribing," in essence, paraphrasing, the suspect's words. The suspect would then sign it, often without being able to comprehend what had been written.
I adopted a mandatory recording policy at my new agency, first for tape recording, followed later by videotaping. My agency was the first in metropolitan Atlanta--an area with dozens of law enforcement agencies. Prosecutors of all the local counties soon made everyone else follow our example. Today I learned the FBI didn't start recording interviews until THIS MONTH. In fact, the written policy was that interviews and interrogations were NOT to be recorded, a rule that left skeptical juries wanting more. The new procedure will be to record all interviews until there is a compelling reason not to make a record. While the FBI has established the benchmark for many investigative procedures, they were way behind on this one.
Welcome to modern police work, FBI.