A Case for Digital Interview
Recording Solutions in
The ins and outs of investigative interview technologies.
An AcrodexTM White Paper by Heather Doswell
February 19, 2010
Table of Contents
Executive Summary 2
An Introduction to Digital Interview Recording 3
Why Record? 3
What Characterizes the Interview Environment? 3
Who, What, and How Many? 4
From No-Tech to Hi-Tech 4
What is Digital Interview Recording? 4
Trials of the Interview Process 4
Evolution of the Interview 5
Acts of Misconduct 5
Officer Credibility and Safety 5
New and Improved Capabilities 5
Recording Methodologies 6
Setting the Stage 6
Audiocassette Recorders 7
Videocassette Recorders 7
Digital Video Recorders 7
Digital Interview Recording 8
Digital Interview Recording Defined 8
How it Works 8
Elements of a Digital Interview Recording System 9
How It’s Different 10
But Is It Secure? 10
Going Digital with ForTheRecord 11
About FTR Interrogator™ 11
The FTR Advantage 13
What’s Ahead 14
Into the Future 14
Case Closed 15
Contact Information 17
Computer based Digital Interview Recording (DIR) technology represents a far-reaching change in how
interviews are recorded, shared and stored. This is exciting for investigators as it represents big gains in
terms of ease of use, the ability to efficiently share information amongst stakeholders, and rock solid
reliability – all of which translate to increased efficiency across the board. However, DIR adopters have
encountered some challenges along the way – not the least of which are resistance to change and
techno phobia expressed by some users. AcrodexTM advises investigative organizations to carefully
research their options with a mind to securely future-proofing their interview recording methodology.
An Introduction to Digital Interview Recording
Back in the day, recording interviews was limited to pencil and notebook. But the emergence of new
technologies has changed that. Now, Police Officers and Crown Attorneys have a number of options
available to them.
The word of a Police Officer seldom results in a conviction today. If an interview isn’t recorded, questions
get asked: Why did you not record the interview? What are you hiding? Paper is still permissible, but a
picture is worth a thousand words.
With an Officer’s credibility always under attack, an audio-visual recording goes a long way in making
his/her actions courtroom defensible.
Department liability is also a concern. Recording of all interviews protects the Police Service against
nuisance legal claims from Interviewees.
What Characterizes the Interview Environment?
When it comes to physical design of an interview room, Officer safety is priority one. Also important is a
consistent room set-up to present to the Judge – going to Court with a professionally managed interview
helps establish credibility.
Optimizing the room for high quality audio and visual recording is imperative – take into consideration wall
and floor treatments for acoustic enhancement, and appropriate lighting to ensure quality visual results.
Bottom line for interview room set-up: Actively control the physical environment to produce a high
quality and credible interview.
Who, What, and How Many?
Who exactly ends up in front of the camera? Depending on the nature of the case, interviews may be
conducted with different Interviewee types – the suspect, a witness, or victim. Cases vary widely: domestic
violence, impaired driving, and major crimes – such as homicide, sexual assault and robbery.
• 10,000 to 12,000 interviews per year are conducted by Police Services in Hamilton, Ontario.
• 12,000 to 16,000 hours of interviews annually are clocked by Winnipeg Police Services in Manitoba.
From No-Tech to Hi-Tech
In the early 1980’s, pencil and paper was pushed aside to make way for audiocassette recorders in the
interview room. Just a few years later, videocassette recorders (VCRs) made an appearance. Then came
Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and their end product – DVDs – a much higher quality recording media.
What is Digital Interview Recording?
A DIR system goes beyond digital video recording. It provides the ability to record, playback, annotate,
save and manage recordings. The recording remains in digital format as the case file is worked and can be
copied to transportable physical media as required.
Later in this paper, we will address pros and cons of each recording method in greater depth.
Trials of the Interview Process
Several challenges exist in the investigative interview world:
• Lack of interview facilities with controlled environments that ensure high quality recordings is a key issue.
As stated earlier, a high volume of interviews is being conducted – an increasing number of dedicated
rooms specifically outfitted for conducting interviews is required to keep up with demand.
• Big pressure exists on getting interview recordings into the Crown’s hands with as little manual
intervention as possible. The more efficient that process becomes, the more time Police Officers can
spend doing their real jobs – investigations.
• Transcripts – Police Agencies are compelled to provide them. Clerical staff often performs the task of
transcription, which is costly and time-consuming.
Evolution of the Interview
An evolution – perhaps even a revolution – has taken place in the interview room. Why has this happened?
Acts of Misconduct
Reliability of evidence is the bottom line and at times, that comes into question. Were acts of misconduct
such as threats, promises, or trickery used to obtain a confession? Was the confession false? Could it result
in a false conviction? Based on situations like these, higher standards in collaboration and collection of
evidence have been urged by the Courts – and that includes the high quality recording of interviews.
Case law that illustrates this point:
R. v. Oickle, 2000 SCC 38,  2 S.C.R. 3
- and -
R. v. Moore-McFarlane, 2001 CanLII 6363 (ON C.A.)
“Although the most recent case law from the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Oickle (2000), 147 C.C.C.
(3d) 321 and from this Court in Moore-McFarlane has stated that it is not necessarily fatal if the Police do
not record a confession, recording is not only the better practice, but in most circumstances, the failure to
record will render the confession suspect. “
“It is perhaps only a matter of time before Courts will routinely rule statements of accused, obtained while
the accused is in custody, inadmissible in the absence of a recording or adequate explanation for the
absence, at least in serious crimes.”
Officer Credibility and Safety
On the flip side, and of equal importance, is the need to support the Police Officer’s credibility and ensure
New and Improved Capabilities
More interviews than ever before are being recorded. What started with the recording of interviews related
to major crimes, the practice has extended to recording interviews of all types: impaired driving, domestic
violence, and minor crimes. Considering that suspect, victim and witness interviews are being conducted,
it adds up to a lot of hours on record.
Gary Brown, Sergeant (Special Projects, IT) of London, Ontario Police Services offers one explanation for
this growth: “We’ve seen an evolution of wanting more information, largely because capabilities now exist
to gather it. Fifteen years ago, it took one to one-and-a-half hours to investigate a domestic violence case.
Today, because of changed requirements, it takes eight to nine hours.”
John Forrester, Assistant Crown, Ministry of Attorney General in London, Ontario agrees,
“The better we get at doing things, the more is expected.”
Setting the Stage
No matter which recording method is being used, there is one common element: optimum interview
room set-up. When designing and building an interview room, key considerations are officer safety, and
optimizing the physical space for pristine audio-video clarity.
Physical set-up: Effective wall and floor treatments – such as double drywall and carpeting, if possible –
result in an acoustically correct room. And keep in mind airflow – most microphones prefer a narrow band
of frequency. A noisy HVAC system can cause loss of midrange clarity in the sound spectrum, which is also
where the human voice tends to pitch. For Officer safety and to control the position of the Interviewee,
one chair and in some cases a table should be bolted in place. In soft rooms, a narrow plush chair should
be used to accommodate the Interviewee, with cameras focused on that position.
Audio-Video: Optimizing the room for high quality audio recording is imperative. The best practice is for
dual microphones to be used – one mounted under the interview table (for those individuals who slouch
and mumble) or on the ceiling, and the other on the table or wall beside the Interviewee. Two cameras are
imperative: one for a wide-angle view of the entire interview room, to provide the Court with assurance
that no one other than the Interviewee and the Interviewer are present in the room. The other camera
provides a head and shoulder view of the Interviewee so the Court can view facial expression and clearly
see responses to questions as they occur. Warm, white fluorescent tubes work best for capturing decent
lighting on camera. While it’s not necessary to make a dramatic film production, striving for recording
studio quality is of prime importance.
Think back to the time before electronic gadgets were entrenched in our daily lives. Pencils, paper. Police
Officers’ notebooks. Low-tech, to be sure – but anyone could operate a pencil – it was a simple way to
record, copy, share and store investigative interviews. Down sides of this method? It was an extremely
time-consuming, manual process with a wide margin for error and inconsistency. In addition, paper records
could not provide proof of what was actually said in the interview.
Enter the audiocassette recorder in the early 1980’s – a big advancement. Still, there was no recorded
image. And the task of duplicating interview content became more complex than simply photocopying
Videocassette recorders (VCRs) set a new precedent – easy to use technology that recorded both audio and
visual. It was great technology for capturing the interview, but issues around quality, editing, storage space,
sharing and person hours soon became evident:
• How long does it take to copy a three-hour interview? Well… three hours. And each time a copy is
made, there is 25 percent degradation in quality.
• What about redacting a sentence out of the middle of the tape for disclosure purposes?
That could take another three hours.
• Storing bulky VHS tapes literally became a growing concern. With physical space at a premium,
many Police Services were soon faced with overflowing vaults of tapes.
• From the Crown’s perspective, rewinding and fast-forwarding tapes to locate specific information
wore on the patience of Judge and Jury.
• Last but not least, time has shown that VHS tapes have a limited shelf life – they deteriorate and
Digital Video Recorders
Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) took interview recording to the next level. A plug and play replacement
for VCRs, they have proven to be a lifesaver in terms of freeing up storage space and offering a higher
quality recording. Additionally, with DVDs the capability exists to increase the recording time over that
which is available on VHS tapes – the higher the compression rate, the more data a disk will store (but with
the consequence of reduced recording quality). While DVDs are still a viable alternative, drawbacks do exist:
• As with VHS tapes, it is time-consuming to find and delete specific interview segments if the
Crown Attorney or Judge deems it necessary.
• The user must be mindful of how the technology works – if disks do not finalize properly,
information could be lost.
• DVRs are more complex technology from a user’s perspective. A technophobe may not take kindly to
operating a complicated multi-button remote control.
Digital Interview Recording
A DIR system is a whole product solution that provides the ability to record, playback, annotate, save,
access and manage recordings. The recording remains readily accessible as the case file is worked with
and can be copied to a transportable physical media as required. Stumbling blocks include:
• Fear of the unknown and resistance to change from traditional methods. People tend to not trust
something they don’t understand.
“I went to Court without paper for the first time a few weeks ago. My secretary has “found a day” with
this paperless, automated system.” says John Forrester, Assistant Crown, Ministry of Attorney General in
• Getting buy-in from the IT department to ensure the necessary technology infrastructure is in place.
• Perception that digital media is easily manipulated (reality is that very few people have the know-how –
and proper handling procedures ensure evidence integrity).
• Implementing processes and methodology to share and store information. Consider that Police
Departments work in tandem with the Crown; therefore, the agreed upon disclosure method
(for example, DVDs or flash drives) has to work for all parties.
Digital Interview Recording Defined
How it Works
Simply put, a DIR solution digitally records audio, video and associated notes directly to a destination
computer or network device. It creates a reference that allows an authorized user to view the file – just like
any other file on the computer or network. From that location, the data can be copied onto physical media
such as a DVD or flash drive for disclosure purposes. It can also be backed up to a secure network location
for storage and archiving.
An on-screen user interface – modeled after the familiar controls found on a tape recorder – is used in the
best products to operate the system. And most digital recording solutions offer a search capability, whereby
a specific piece of information can be located in seconds.
Elements of a Digital Interview Recording System
Like any technology, careful planning for the implementation of your DIR solution — with a view to
flexibility and future requirements – is required to achieve the best results. There are two installation
options to consider:
• Stand-alone product where physical media is produced, complete with notes at the end of the interview.
• Networked solution so that recording and notes are stored in a central location, such as a server.
Optimum systems allow the Police Service to migrate from stand-alone to network archiving,
or a combination of both.
Software is installed at the workstation to facilitate recording, confidence monitoring, note taking and
reviewing of current or previous recordings.
Industry-leading DIR systems are compatible with off-the-shelf hardware components. In fact, many Police
Services continue to use their existing cameras and microphones when migrating to a DIR system. And in
most cases, the Police Service can use their standard PC as the recording workstation. Off-the-shelf video
capture cards are also usable.
Most Police Services implement or consider network storage for sharing and collaboration of interview files,
rich media content, and adherence to retention policies. DIR systems can then archive files to these storage
locations on a network.
How It’s Different
Unlike traditional recording methods where the end result is a tangible item restricted to a format such as
a VHS tape or DVD, a DIR solution can provide output to any digital media. This allows new digital media
formats to be adopted as they become available. In addition, because the content is created in a computer
environment it can be stored and viewed across a network.
In contrast with traditional methods, a digital solution makes it easy to record, manage, search, store, back
up, and share information. Other important differences include:
• No more rewinding and fast-forwarding audiocassettes, VHS tapes or DVDs.
• No more lost records from broken or damaged tapes and disks.
• No more recording machine maintenance problems.
• No more struggling to work with media that was never designed with transcription in mind.
• No more questioning if recording is taking place.
• No more limitations on length of interviews.
• No more interruptions to change media/tapes during interview process.
But Is It Secure?
Of course, maintaining data integrity after the interview has been recorded is critical. Back-up systems
(such as simultaneous recording to a secondary network location), password-protected access, and
protection from disaster scenarios are vital to any organization’s data. Consider the challenges of
safeguarding vaults of VHS tapes and DVDs – these issues simply don’t exist with digital recordings.
DIR systems allow the Police Service to archive and protect interview evidence, yet also maintain the
existing methodologies around chain of evidence custody and disclosure if desired.
Going Digital with ForTheRecord
“What distinguishes the FTR product we’re using today is its ability to add linked content to interview
recordings,” notes Sergeant Ben Haegeman of Winnipeg Police Services in Manitoba. “FTR has been a
game changer – it has provided us with some forward thinking, reliable evidence capturing.”
About FTR Interrogator™
FTR Interrogator™ is a complete digital interview room solution that enables investigators to capture,
playback, annotate, save, retrieve and manage audio/video recordings of custodial interrogations and
The following is what makes FTR Interrogator™ unique in the digital interview recording space…
Recording Integrity: A time-and-date watermark is indicated on each recorded frame, which means that
the authenticity and continuity of the recording can be verified at any time.
Case Management: All files related to a particular case reside in one place with links to audio/video
content that can be held in the same place or at a different location. Investigators can create indexed notes
that are linked directly to recorded audio/video either as the interview is recorded or after the interview has
been completed. These linked notes can be rapidly searched to locate specific words or phrases and the
corresponding audio/video instantly played. Each recording can also be tagged with identifying information
such as Case Number, and Interviewee and Interviewer Names. What’s more - field recordings from select
hand-held voice recorders can be imported to become part of a case’s permanent record.
Integrated Search Engine: FTR InterrogatorTM’s search capability enables rapid search and retrieval of
recordings and notes, while also facilitating duplication of specific pre-recorded segments very quickly
Security & Storage: Two-channel digital audio and video recording using FTR technology ensures that
interviews are successfully captured in their entirety, in full context and with clarity. Archiving to either
CD/DVD or a secure network location provides peace of mind that information is safe and secure for
search and review in the future.
Mobile Interview Capabilities: Conducting interviews at remote or off-site locations (like hospitals or
command units) can present a unique set of challenges. FTR offers the flexibility to perform off-premise
interviews with its Mobile/Command Unit solution, which automatically synchronizes content with
established work/data flow when reconnected to the network.
Here’s how one Canadian Police Service has achieved vast operational improvements with its
FTR Interrogator™ solution:
Royal Canadian Mounted Police, D Division Major Crime, Manitoba, Canada
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is the Canadian national Police Service responsible for
all federal policing and policing services under contract to many areas of Canada. The RCMP has
approximately 26,000 employees, headquarters in 4 regions, 14 divisions and 750+ detachments.
• The RCMP was using a variety of low-tech devices to record interviews, which included VHS,
audiocassette and DVR recorders. Recording quality was often poor, making life difficult for
transcribers, and making it difficult to share recordings with other relevant staff.
• Interviews were conducted at the headquarters facility, but RCMP also conducted remote “fly-in”
interviews. This meant that the right solution would need to be easy to use, allow for multiple
individuals to access and share the recordings, have a portable component, all the while providing
high-quality sound and video.
Return on Investment:
• Reduced overall operating costs and streamlined workflow.
• Significantly improved transcription quality and turnaround times.
• Reduced media storage costs.
• A total of 12 FTR systems (both fixed and portable) have been in operation since 2005.
• All relevant personnel within the department as well as the Crown Attorney, defense and the Court,
utilize the FTR solution, which has increased overall efficiency by leaps and bounds.
The high quality of recordings has vastly improved transcription time, and interview teams are extremely
pleased with the FTR solution.
And this Provincial Court system has seen a signification return on investment – in dollars, person hours
and recovery of physical space:
Province of Alberta Court System, Canada
The Alberta Court System has 240 courtrooms throughout the province.
• Improve sound quality
• Improve information sharing
• Give transcribers direct access to records
• Reduce physical storage needs
Return on Investment:
• Estimated monthly savings of C$7,600, or over C$90,000 annually
• ROI of approximately 2-3 months
• 90% decrease in physical storage needs
• The Court produces approximately 19,000 pages of transcription per month. Prior to implementing the
FTR solution, the cost for transcription was C$49,400 per month, which dropped to C$41,800 post-FTR.
• Much of savings were a direct result of transcriptionists being able to work more quickly and efficiently.
The FTR Advantage
Additional to the generic benefits mentioned in the previous section, FTR technology offers its own unique
set of advantages:
• FTR InterrogatorTM is so versatile and easy to use, there is virtually no learning curve.
Minimal training is required.
• It easily and cost-effectively integrates into your existing processes and technology. No databases or
heavy IT support is necessary.
• User-friendly – it looks and operates like a tape recorder.
• No need to hunt for a VHS tape or DVD. You can rapidly retrieve and review recorded statements and
reports from anywhere within your FTR network, including the convenience of your own desk.
• Instantly link notes with associated recordings to search for specific segments of interviews.
• Review recorded audio and video any time you want to – even while recording.
Gary Brown, Sergeant (Special Projects, IT), London, Ontario Police Services states, “We went from VHS
right to FTR – a full network solution. With FTR we’re able to attach an HTML file with hyperlinks, which is
a very small file. And we store it in a separate, secure location on the server.”
Into the Future
Digital storage of all elements of a case, including interview recording, notes, identification photos,
statements and general occurrence report is the first step. This central information source can then
be utilized to create a comprehensive Crown brief. Then, any individual with proper authorization
can access that digital file, perform keyword searches and review information.
Perfect the Process
For many Police Services using a DIR solution, electronic information sharing is still a one-way street.
But the digital process doesn’t have to stop there.
Down the digital road, providing information electronically to the Courts is vital. The ability for Crown
staff to view an encrypted and password-protected digital brief while at their desks is the next step. And
to go to trial “paperless”, yet still have access to current data from beginning to end, would translate into
increased efficiency all around. Some Crown offices are there today – but even though the technology is
available, not everyone is embracing it yet.
But take it one step further – make it a two-way street. Some Police Services would give their eyeteeth to
receive electronic reporting – like trial dates – back from the Crown.
Looking ahead, a provincial then national database accessible to all Law Enforcement Agencies would be
an enormous step in fighting crime. Just because a criminal lives in a particular community, doesn’t mean
the individual stays in that jurisdiction to commit crimes. Think file accessibility, versus file transferability, to
collaborate with other jurisdictions and expedite solvency rates.
In the face of increasing volumes of interviews and escalating demands to securely manage, store and
share information, it’s time for Law Enforcement Agencies to take a close look at their current interview
methodologies and readiness for future growth.
Creating an optimum physical interview environment is one aspect. Selecting the most appropriate
interview recording technology is another. But a solution should not be chosen based on features and
functionality alone; ease of use is a critical factor in how successfully a technology will be adopted by
users – and ultimately how well the solution will work for the organization.
Digital interview recording (DIR) technology is clearly a step in the right direction. Unlike other interview
recording methods – like VCRs and DVRs – DIR provides a fully digital way to centrally store all elements of
a case. What’s more, sharing information is seamless, simple and secure – whether it’s with a fellow Police
Officer, the Crown Attorney, or the Judge.
The FTR InterrogatorTM solution provides all that and more. It looks and operates like a tape recorder so
there is virtually no learning curve. And since no databases or heavy IT support is required, it easily and
cost-effectively integrates into existing processes and technology –a future-proof interview recording
A solution like FTR InterrogatorTM is clearly the ideal foundation.
Oickle: A leading case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on the common law rule for confessions.
ForTheRecord (FTR) is a global leader, dedicated to providing digital recording and content management
solutions for justice and public safety venues. We use our patented ThinkLink technology to provide simple,
reliable, cost effective and innovative solutions that enable our clients to capture, index, access, and
manage, digital audio and video recordings, and associated annotations, across the enterprise.
FTR solutions are sold through a global network of authorized resellers and systems integrators and can
be found in over 22,500 recording venues located across 48 countries. The FTR mission is to take our core
technologies across several vertical markets.
Founded in 1993 in Perth, Western Australia, ForTheRecord is part of the global Melbourne IT Group.
Melbourne IT Limited is a world leader in domain name registrations and related online business solutions,
and is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX:MLB). Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia and
with offices in over 10 countries, Melbourne IT’s mission is to be a global leader in the provision of internet
based IT services via a customer-centric culture.
Acrodex Inc. is a 20-year-old technology solutions provider that offers a full array of hardware and software
services, including: system integration, computer facilities management, application management and life
cycle management services. Acrodex was founded as Multitech Electronics, a computer products vendor
and later changed its name to CompCanada Atlas. The Acrodex identity was launched in October 2001 as
the company had evolved into a provider of premier-quality, enterprise-wide, IT solutions provider.
Avnet Technology Solutions (ATS) operates as a leading distributor of IT solutions in more than 30 countries
around the world. ATS improves how technology products and services are defined and delivered to
businesses worldwide. ATS is an operating group of Avnet Inc., a Fortune 500 company listed on the
New York Exchange NYSE:AVT. www.ats.avnet.com
HP focuses on simplifying technology experiences for all of its customers – from individual consumers to
the largest businesses. With a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and IT
infrastructure, HP is among the world’s largest IT companies. More information about HP (NYSE: HPQ) is
available at http://www.hp.com.