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For years, departments in [Albuquerque N.M. and Arlington TX] and states like Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin have required a waiting period of at least two days. In Dallas, 72 hours must pass. In Baltimore, where six police officers have been charged for their involvement in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, a union contract compels cops to wait 10 days before speaking with investigators.
In the aftermath of controversial police shootings, from Michael Brown to Tamir Rice and Samuel Dubose, the public has repeatedly seen that an officer's account—"I almost got run over by the car" or "I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan"—can have big implications for a case, swaying internal investigators, prosecutors, and grand juries as they determine whether a police shooting was legal or justified. It is unsurprising, then, that over the past year the question of how long officers should wait before giving their accounts has been fiercely debated. Policing experts have raised a number of issues, . . . Local officials and union attorneys who embrace the so-called 48-hour rule say stress can interfere with an officer's ability to recall details. "The science behind how people remember things, particularly those that are involved in a high-stress, adrenaline-infused situation, has shown that memories can often be inaccurate if they are immediate," Sean Smoot, a police union attorney who represents officers in Illinois, testified to the US Commission on Civil Rights in April. . . . delay could give officers an opportunity to review video or "consult with their peers who were involved before they ever give a statement." Walter Katz, a Los Angeles-based attorney focusing on police accountability, told me that "there's always the concern about either contamination or having statements which are essentially fabricated." And McGinn and others have asked if the delays amount to special treatment a regular citizen wouldn't be afforded. (Union officials have pointed out that due process for ordinary civilians does not provide enough protection for law enforcement officers.) In the fragile atmosphere that tends to follow police shootings, such suspicions could well corrode public trust.
What's more, rules delaying interviews also overlook the fact that officers may prefer to get their interviews out of the way, says David Klinger, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "In the absence of sound scientific evidence, why make [or allow] them wait?" [the waiting period serves the interests of police, police unions, attorneys who represent officers, and consultants and experts who get money from the above.]
These delay rules must go. There is little scientific evidence supporting the delay rules. Most of the evidence suggests the rules are a bad idea for recall. Why not both interview them immediately and then re-interview 48-72 hours later?
The delay is advocated by many police officers, police unions, attorneys who defend police, experts who consult and testify for police and police organizations, and Chiefs who don't want any scandals coming out. A number of groups have called for abolition of the rule.
Dallas PD's Chief has gotten rid of the delay rule. Thank you Chief Brown. Transparency, fairness and public trust require it.