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Institute for Public Service Reporting – Memphis


Emails show MPD’s changing policy on recorded interrogations

In response to weeks of questioning by Marc Perrusquia, director of the Institute for Public Service Reporting, about the Memphis Police Department’s long reluctance to record custodial interrogations, MPD spokeswoman Karen Rudolph released the following statements via email. The final statement repeated the Institute’s questions and provided answers.

July 18

“There is no written policy in place relative to recording during an investigative interview. On rare occasions, pending the circumstances, an interview will be recorded.”

Sept. 7

“We will not be conducting any interviews (with the Institute) relative to these cases; however, I can address your interest concerning the audio/video of investigative interviews. Currently, it is not common practice for investigators to record interviews. As advised previously, there is no written policy in place relative to recording during an investigative interview. However, on rare occasions, pending the circumstances, an interview will be recorded. 

“The Memphis Police Department is working to move forward with plans of recording all investigative interviews in the near future. This process will take time. Hopefully, by the end of the year, most bureaus will have the capability of recording investigative interviews.”

Sept. 12

Q: You say you won’t do any interviews relative to these cases, but can we do an interview as I’ve asked earlier with Mike Shearin or the appropriate person on MPD’s recording practice in general?

A: No one is available for an interview; however, please see the below responses to your questions.

Q: Why has MPD largely avoided electronic recording of custodial interviews? Many police departments here have been doing it for 15 years or more. Is there a logistical reason? Perhaps with the level of crime MPD was handling, it was simply not feasible to record? Was there a tactical or strategic reason for not recording?

A: The Memphis Police Department is very successful regarding investigative abilities, to include investigative interview tactics. However, we are always looking at ways to improve. In years past, we did not have the capability to record, nor the infrastructure in place to allow us to record successfully. There were also concerns when we were still at 201 Poplar regarding logistics, how the evidence would be stored, and if we would have proper storage capability.

Q: My stories are focused on interrogations of murder suspects. Does your plan to record in the near future include recording these? What all is involved in implementing your recording plan?

A: Yes, now that we have moved to our new headquarters, our goal is to enhance the current infrastructure to make sure that our recording capabilities will be adequate and sufficient for evidentiary purposes.

Q: Will you record by audio or video?  

A: We will record both audio and video.

Q: Do you intend to record only for specific crimes?   

A: Our goal is to provide all investigative units with the ability to record.

Q: What is the anticipated cost?

A: We are in the preliminary phase of planning; this is unknown at this point.

Q: Why is this being considered now? 

A: Since Director (Michael) Rallings was appointed Director of Police Services, his team has been looking for additional ways to enhance our investigative abilities. Now that we are in place in our new headquarters, and we are using body worn cameras to record events in the field, the next logical step is to record interviews. 

This story first appeared at under exclusive use agreement with The Institute. Photos reprinted with permission of The Daily Memphian.

Written By

Marc Perrusquia is the director of the Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis, where graduate students learn investigative and explanatory journalism skills working alongside professionals. He has won numerous state and national awards for government watchdog, social justice and political reporting.

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