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Phila. Police Dept. Gets Big Grant To Expand Recording of Interrogations

By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It's now only a matter of time, but no longer a matter of money, before many suspect interrogations by Philadelphia police detectives are recorded by camera and microphone.

This much-needed expansion of video recording of interrogations is long overdue, says police commissioner Charles Ramsey, but there's no budget for it.

So, today, he was celebrating a grant of nearly $85,000 from the Philadelphia Police Foundation that advances the process by, in his words, "years."

"It would take years for us to be able to get all six divisions up and operational, and Special Victims, because our capital budget for IT is, one, not that significant and, two, we still have other areas that we need to address like mobile data terminals (and) desktops," the commissioner said.

Maureen Rush, head of the Police Foundation, thanked Macy's and Tyco Integrated Security for being major contributors.

"Homicide already has it," she noted today, "but we have Special Victims Unit and we have all the divisional detective units that will now have this state-of-the-art programing."


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(A camera and microphone already installed in an interview room of the PPD's homicide unit. Photo by John Ostapkovich)


Commissioner Ramsey hopes the equipment will be in place by the end of the year, but he notes there have been technical issues with the one already in Homicide, and no case based on a taped statement has yet gone to court.

Ramsey recalls that when he was police chief in Washington DC, until 2007, he saw an intriguing side effect of the recordings.

"Detectives strive to be the best, and when they see themselves on tape they think about all the things they could have said, how they could have reacted to certain situations, and so forth," Ramsey notes.

He adds that the department is going to need to find a secure storage solution for these video interviews, which he says will not be released to the media like security video often is.   This, he says, is evidence.  "We're not playing Court TV."


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