||Taping & Transcribing Interviews In Administrative Investigations

Taping & Transcribing Interviews In Administrative Investigations

I’m asked frequently whether you need to tape record and transcribe all interviews conducted during administrative or Internal Affairs investigations.  The simple answer is yes to taping and maybe on the on transcription.  Those agreements between the U.S. Department of Justice and local police agencies which address administrative investigations require that all interviews be not only taped, but also transcribed.  But that isn’t the common protocol in most police agencies.

First let’s take the issue of tape recording these interviews.  You should tape record all interviews conducted during administrative investigations.  Today that really isn’t a burden with the availability of digital tape recorders.  These have gotten down under $100 with a capacity of over 20 hours and can be divided into different folders without much effort.  The data then can be downloaded to any computer for retention.  No more tapes, storage, and reuse.  Of course, you still have to assure that your battery is charged!

There are many reasons to tape record all interviews.  Our employees have been the most significant element in mandating this aspect.  They want to be assured that what they said is what is reflected in the investigative report.  On the other side of the investigation, citizens who make complaints expect that we will record the interview since that has become so commonplace in our society today.  Another value in tape recording is that it allows supervisors the opportunity to evaluate the performance of the investigators.  It readily demonstrates the proficiency and professionalism of your investigators.

Now when should you transcribe these interviews?  Transcribing interviews should be done whenever the issue being investigated has a good potential to end up in a civil lawsuit.  This would be any critical incident administrative investigation or when the citizen’s complaint involves police action resulting in injury to the citizen.  These have that higher potential to end up in court.  The other type of investigation warranting transcription of the interview is anytime your investigation results in discipline invoking significant suspension, demotion or termination.  These are likely to end up in some form of external appeal.  In some jurisdictions there is either a contract, Civil Service, or State mandate for transcription of these types of employee actions.  Even when the interview is transcribed, it is important for the supervisor to still randomly compare the tape recording to the transcription. Statistically this won’t be much of a burden on your agency as this usually represents less than 20 percent of your administrative investigations.

There are many methods for transcribing interviews.  It is not cost effective to have verbatim transcripts done by investigators or clerical personnel.  Your agency needs to look to a professional court reporting service.  With the use of digital recorders these interviews can be transmitted directly to the reporting service via the internet.  These services normally can give you a turnaround of just a few days and price the service out at about two hours transcription for each hour of interview.  With most administrative interviews consuming between 20 to 40 minutes, that’s not much of a burden.

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By |2018-06-27T21:16:02-04:00September 16th, 2009|Legal updates|

About the Author:

Lou Reiter currently is a police consultant. He offers three (3) separate professional services to the law enforcement community. He provides training to police groups in the high liability areas of use of force, emergency vehicle operations, high risk operations, investigations of citizen complaints, Internal Affairs procedures, investigation of critical incidents, and liability management. Each year, Lou conducts an average of 5-10 agency management audits and liability assessments. These have been for state, county and municipal police operations. The size of these agencies has been from 3 persons to 39,000 employees. These audits allow him to be in police cars up to 100 hours each year. He has been a consultant on 8 U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, investigations of agencies involving patterns and practices of Constitutional violations. He was selected as a Federal Court monitor for the Consent Decree of Colln v. Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, CA. Lou provides litigation consultation to attorney firms involved in police civil actions. Since 1983, Lou has been retained in over 950 such cases in nearly every state plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This has been on both sides of the table with approximately 60 percent being for plaintiffs. Lou Reiter was a member of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1961 to 1981. During that tenure he had 22 different assignments and rose through to ranks to retire as Deputy Chief of Police. About 70 percent of his time was spent in uniformed operations while the bulk of the remainder was in Internal Affairs, use of force review, training and personnel administration. Lou has been published throughout his professional career. He was one of the principle researchers and authors of the 1973 Police Task Force Report of the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Standards and Goals, where he authored the chapters on Internal Discipline, Training and Management-Employee Relations. In 1993 he authored and published the Law Enforcement Administrative Investigations a Supervisory and Agency Guide to handling citizen complaints of misconduct, conducting administrative investigations, managing the Internal Affairs Function, and creating reasonable and defensible discipline.