A little-discussed provision in a 73-page crime bill will have a sweeping impact on police procedures in Missouri. House Bill 62, passed the final day of the legislative session, will require law enforcement agencies to record interrogations of people suspected of committing dangerous felonies.
Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd crafted the language requiring recorded interrogations and led the effort for the bill’s passage. “This law is a powerful tool that will help police and prosecutors fulfill their duty to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. There will be no speculation about what a suspect says during an interrogation, because it will be recorded for everyone to hear.”
Zahnd worked with representatives of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association to craft a bill that would implement a fair, transparent, and workable system of recording interrogations of people taken into custody because they were suspected of committing dangerous felonies.
The law requires audio or video recording of anyone suspected of committing crimes such as murder, rape, first degree assault, first degree robbery, first degree arson, kidnapping, child abuse, and certain child sex crimes.
Zahnd said, “The Constitution does not require interrogations to be recorded. For decades, the technology did not exist. This law is about the best practices for law enforcement agencies given the availability and relatively low cost of recording equipment in the 21st Century.”
In general, the law would require recordings to be made only when suspects are taken into custody and interrogated at a police station. Law enforcement agencies that fail to comply with the law could lose State funding.
Zahnd said jurors increasingly expect interrogations of suspects in serious cases to be recorded. “I remember teachers in elementary school telling us to ‘show our work,’” Zahnd said. “This bill allows police and prosecutors to ‘show our work,’ and demonstrate to juries that our only goal is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent.”
The law will become effective August 28 if signed by the Governor.