Law enforcement professionals conduct interviews with hundreds or perhaps even thousands of individuals every year, and each interview is as different as the background and personality of the interviewee. So, what happens when an interview turns into a case of "he said, she said?"
Recordant Inc., an Alpharetta, Georgia-based company, hopes its latest product will help officers combat situations where a suspect or witness challenges a report. About the size of an iPod, the Audio Witness is a technological tool that assists officers in the line of questioning. But there are other uses for it as well. For instance, Audio Witness is able to protect officers with recorded proof against false allegations. Previously unsubstantiated claims, which could otherwise affect an officer's performance record, can be compared with the objective data collected by the recording device. According to Recordant, the information could also contain key pieces of evidence or corroborate the account of an officer who responded to a call alone. Perhaps most interesting is that Audio Witness can also be used as a training tool to educate officers, and improve and measure performance.
Introduced in April, Audio Witness provides a reliable and non-biased way to record and review an interview. It features Personal Recording Device (PRD) technology to chronicle the audio interactions between the public and law enforcement officers. Whether it is used alone or in conjunction with an in-vehicle video system, it is designed to improve note-taking accuracy. It also protects officers in the same way.
"Law enforcement officers deserve the protection of Audio Witness," says Ron Lau, vice president of strategic development and general counsel at Recordant. "False accusations arising from interactions with the general public are distressingly common."New tech for an old concept
Audio Witness uses an Application Service Provider (ASP) platform for audio capture, archiving and evidentiary needs. Approximately 10 to 12 hours of recording time is available, and Recordant guarantees the highest standards for security, ensuring that all encrypted recordings are un-editable, which in turn ensures the evidence's integrity.
For quick and easy use, the system includes all of the necessary software, hardware, portable recording devices and docking stations. Access to Audio Witness is available anytime, anywhere. Officers can upload the recorded information via Web-based programs, which is especially important for law enforcement in today's instant-access age. The recordings are then readily available to officers and commanders to manage, store or review online.
"We know officers have been recording for many years. It's not a new concept," says Chris Etters, CEO of Recordant. Although other companies sell recording equipment, most of them are retail-type systems, Etters adds.
"This product is tuned specifically to capture just about everything that's said."
The Audio Witness device is so tuned in to capturing audio that it is able to record a subject in even the most raucous situations. For law enforcement professionals, that can be critical, especially considering the multitude of situations officers can find themselves in. Recordant has considered the environmental challenges that officers face when recording outside of a quiet interrogation room.
"We have police standing at the side of the highway with a bus pulled next to them," Etters says. "[Even] with all the ambient noise, you can still hear the recording clearly. Audio Witness was built for these situations."
Although the technology is new, the Audio Witness has been tested and used in the field, mostly in military situations. Prior to the April 2008 launch, Recordant partnered with a law enforcement agency to participate in a pilot project with the device since mid-February. However, the agency declined to be involved with this article for security purposes.