For years, detectives with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department have had to make do with standard recording devices when taping statements and/or confessions. "I've accumulated scores of tapes and sometimes didn't log them correctly or couldn't find them on short notice. It was an often cumbersome way to store key pieces of information," said Detective Robert Johnson, who is based in Vista, CA, about 35 miles north of downtown San Diego.
But a new digital telephone recording solution is helping Detective Johnson and his colleagues at two other Sheriff's Department stations, Imperial Beach and Poway, to not only improve recording quality, but also productivity and information access. Known as Phone 2 PC-Law Enforcement, the product, from San Diego-based Konexx (www.konexx.com), is installed on an individual PC or notebook. The software is compatible with any Microsoft Windows operating system and recorded files may be stored on the Sheriff's Department local harddrive or network servers.
A Phone 2 PC-Law Enforcement interface connects a telephone handset to a computer sound card, allowing the Sheriff's Department to record telephone conversations directly to compressed WAV files that can be e-mailed as attachments or archived for future reference. Recordings can be easily annotated with the officers' comments either at the beginning or end of the original recording. A digital voice stamp is placed at the beginning and end of the original recording to ensure security. Users can select on-demand or voice activated recording.
Detective Bob Giltner, based in Imperial Beach, recently used Phone 2PC-Law Enforcement to assist him in a sexual assault case. An under aged female was allegedly assaulted by her mother's boyfriend. "The suspect didn't give us anything over the phone but by using the statements recorded with Phone 2 PC-Law Enforcement from the young girl, I was able to bookmark important points of her conversation and used this to have her call back the boyfriend so he could make potentially incriminating statements on the phone to her while we listened." Giltner added "It's an effective tool especially when you have lengthy interviews. It alleviates note taking and I can add annotations at the beginning or end of a recorded file."
Detective Johnson added that he used Phone 2 PC-Law Enforcement to take a suspect's statement over the phone. The suspect allegedly threw a Molotov cocktail at his in-laws' house trying to burn it down. Fortunately the bomb didn't ignite and no one was hurt, but the intent
was there. "The suspect initially tried to blame someone else, and when he later took a polygraph, he tried changing his story again," Johnson said. "What would have been a probable 'he said, she said' type of case instead went forward for prosecution because I had the proof right on my computer!"
Johnson also used Phone 2 PC-Law Enforcement during an indecent exposure case that had 11 different victims. There were numerous victim interviews taken with very similar, but slightly different suspect descriptions, Johnson said, and without the product, "I would have been confused as to what victim gave me what suspect description. It helped me file the charges faster because I could more accurately write up the statements," he said. "I could collate information much better. In one example, a woman came in a month after giving her initial statement to me for a photo lineup. I was able to instantly play back to her key portions of her own statement, which helped refresh her memory because she had trouble remembering details from her initial statement. She was then able to identify the individual responsible for the crime, and subsequently picked him out of the photo lineup!"
Detective Al Hudson, who works out of the Poway office, said he anticipates using the product to help ensure the accuracy of testimonies in sex crimes. "It will allow us to do controlled phone calls in instances where we may have a minimum amount of evidence," Hudson said. "We'll be able put the victims in touch with the suspect, which can be very helpful since in many of these cases the suspect initially won't talk to the police but may want to boast about what he has done or may do and thus make incriminating remarks." "It's a great organizational tool because I can better organize my caseload into folders or directories on my PC," Johnson added. "I can instantly play back important conversations and can also use the auto file naming feature so I can save files with fixed prefixes and the date and time."
Giltner said he eventually wants to have multiple Phone 2 PC-Law Enforcement products available soon to facilitate with other Sheriff's Department functions - one for patrol deputies, one for traffic officers when they're conducting traffic collisions and drunk driving
investigations, and a third unit that could be attached to a laptop for when detectives need to conduct phone interviews from the field. All three detectives said Phone 2 PC helps them share necessary information with their colleagues since they can e-mail conversations or even portions of conversations as attachments. They indicated they will soon use it to e-mail conversations to the District Attorney for instant review, and also record conversations for training purposes.
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