Audiovisual Recording of Custodial Interrogations ~ Public Act 479 of 2012

Public Act 479 of 2012 was signed into law late last year. This Act requires all law enforcement agencies to “make a time-stamped, audiovisual recording” of custodial interrogations for certain felonies. MCOLES was required to set the quality standards for the recordings as well as standards for geographic accessibility of equipment.  Public Act 479 of 2012 is accessible by following this link:  http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/publicact/htm/2012-PA-0479.htm.

The MCOLES’ goal was to create standards that are logistically achievable and practical for Michigan law enforcement. The challenge was to identify existing law enforcement audiovisual recording practices, research other states and federal procedures, and identify reasonable equipment options and costs. MCOLES staff completed the relevant research, conducted site visits at several law enforcement agencies with a variety of audiovisual systems, and consulted with two advisory groups. The groups offered insight from both managerial and organizational perspectives as well as technical specifications of audiovisual equipment and their application in law enforcement as defined by the Act. A field survey was also conducted in which all Michigan law enforcement agencies were invited to participate.

Based on the completed analysis, staff recommended six standards for the audiovisual recording of certain felonies as defined by the Act. On September 18, 2013 the Commission accepted the standards as follows:

Standard 1:  Recording Capability

Audiovisual equipment shall:

  • Use a digital recording format;
  • Capture at least 24 frames per second;
  • Be compatible with a universal playback system;
  • Have the capability for an authorized user to redact a copy of the original digital evidence;
  • Export duplicate recordings in the original format;
  • Allow for a compressed file sharing copy without loss of picture/audio quality;
  • Record, without user intervention, at least a continuous 6-hour event; and
  • Playback recordings in original quality, without loss of picture/audio integrity.

Standard 2:  Camera

Video cameras must:

  • Record in color;
  • Have a minimum of 452 horizontal lines of resolution; and
  • Be positioned so all individuals within the interrogation room are captured.

Standard 3:  Microphone

Audio recording equipment shall:

  • Record simultaneously with the video for recording and archiving;
  • Be positioned to capture voices of individuals within the interrogation room; and
  • Be of a quality to accurately record all verbal communication taking place in the interrogation room.

Standard 4:  Date/Time Stamp

Recording systems shall:

  • Continually record the time/date stamp as metadata; and
  • Be administrator-configurable to allow or disallow visual display.

Standard 5:  Agency Policy and Procedure

Michigan law enforcement agencies shall establish operational guidelines for the audiovisual recording of interrogations identified in law. The guidelines shall include:

  • Procedures for audiovisual recordings;
  • Miranda rights within the recording;
  • The treatment of recordings as evidence;
  • The secured storage of audiovisual recordings;
  • Procedures for the copying of recordings;
  • Procedures for the retention and/or destruction of recordings; and
  • How the recording equipment is tested and verified.

Standard 6:  Geographic Accessibility

The geographic accessibility requirement shall be met by an agency if all of the following occur:

  • Equipment meeting MCOLES audiovisual standards is reasonably accessible by an agency; and
  • There is a mutual agreement in place for use of another agency’s audiovisual equipment in effect; and
  • The location housing the audiovisual equipment is considered to be a place of detention as defined in the Act.

It is important to note the MCOLES cannot interpret law. If there are questions regarding the legislation, definitions, or timelines it is recommended those concerns be addressed with agency counsel or local prosecutors.

MCOLES was also mandated to conduct an assessment of the initial cost necessary for law enforcement agencies to purchase audiovisual recording equipment and this process is ongoing. No funds have been appropriated for agency implementation of these standards by the legislature. Should an agency decide to purchase, enhance, or upgrade equipment prior to the legislature appropriating funding, those purchases will not be reimbursable as the state budget process does not work retroactively.

Updates will be posted on this Web page as they occur. Questions regarding the specific standards should be addressed to Wayne Carlson of the Career Development Section at 517-322-5614, carlsonw1@michigan.gov.