Brad Messer Commentary
Monday, August 18, 2003

SAPD to Record Interrogations, After All

I did not ridicule our police department's refusal to videotape interrogations and confessions. I didn't have to: the policy was ridiculous on its own.

Now comes a change: San Antonio police say they plan to begin recording questioning in important cases.

I hope they do it right. It is a fact that the technique of taping can influence whether people believe the suspect no not.

Where the camera is placed - what height, how far away - has an impact on how viewers perceive a confession. I expounded in January on an article in The Wall Street Journal, in which an expert said, "How people evaluate videotaped confessions can be significantly affected by seemingly inconsequential things, like camera perspective." That Journal article is linked from this commentary, online today at

The San Antonio police are right to pursue a new policy that appears to emphasize a search for truth. The outgoing policy, not videotaping, only makes people wonder what there is to hide.

Now that the SAPD plans to move forward, they must educate themselves on the whole topic, and not merely put a camera in a room and turn it on.

Brad Messer commentary, KTSA.


The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 31, 2003
Videocameras, Too, Can Lie, Or at Least Create Prejudice

San Antonio Express-News, Aug. 16, 2003
S.A. cops to tape their questioning of felony suspects


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