Ethical Considerations in Transcribing Suspect Interviews

In the grand scheme of the legal system, when a police officer interviews a suspect, conversations can expose details that could make or break a case. However, getting all that info down on paper is not as easy as it sounds—so many legal and ethical considerations need to be factored in. That’s where law enforcement transcription services must know the ethical considerations when transcribing suspect interviews.

Transcribing interviews isn’t just a matter of typing fast. It’s a form of art that requires a deep understanding of all the ethical ins and outs. Transcriptionists must walk a tightrope, balancing spot-on accuracy with respect for everyone’s rights. They must stick to legal and ethical rules about handling sensitive info—and, like waking a tightrope, that’s no small feat.

In this article, you’ll learn how:

  • Accurate and impartial transcription of suspect interviews is crucial to ensure the integrity of the legal system.
  • Even small transcription errors can significantly impact a case’s outcome, which means it’s essential for transcriptionists to maintain a high level of accuracy (over 99%).
  • The current state of AI-powered automated transcription, with an accuracy rate of up to 86%, is insufficient for use in legal contexts where people’s liberties are at stake.

Why Is Proper Documentation Crucial for Suspect Interview?

Thorough and accurate documentation is a must when the police question a suspect. It’s not just about getting answers—it’s about doing things by the book. For the interviewee, it ensures their rights aren’t trampled on. For the interviewer or the officer, it’s a way to show they played fair and square.

Having a detailed record of who said what, makes things clear. And, it’s a big deal if the case ends up in court. Think of having a detailed record like an insurance policy against misunderstandings or folks trying to twist words around later

At the end of the day, a transcript’s goal is to keep the entire interview above-board.

Types of Suspect Interviews

Since we’re at it, below are some of the ways law enforcers interview suspects. 

Suspect InterviewsDescription
Voluntary InterviewThe suspect agrees to speak without being under arrest or detained.
Custodial InterviewThe suspect is under arrest or detained and must be informed of their Miranda rights.
InterrogationAn intensive, accusatory questioning style often used when strong evidence exists.
Cognitive InterviewA non-confrontational technique that focuses on eliciting detailed information from memory.
PEACE Model InterviewAn approach emphasizing Planning, Engage, Account, Closure, and Evaluation to gather reliable information.
Informal InterviewA casual conversation to build rapport or gather initial information.
Follow-Up InterviewConducted after an initial interview to clarify information or address inconsistencies.
Polygraph InterviewAn interview is conducted while the suspect is connected to a polygraph machine to detect deception.
Behavioral Analysis Interview (BAI)A technique analyzing the suspect’s behavior, body language, and verbal responses to detect deception or guilt.
Recorded InterviewAny interview that is audio or video recorded for later review and use as evidence.

Ethical Considerations in Transcribing Suspect Interviews

Sure, legal transcriptions can be very handy when documenting suspect interviews. However, creating written versions of these recordings isn’t as simple as it sounds. Transcribers need to be careful of certain ethical considerations for various reasons, one of which is to uphold the legal system. 

Accuracy and Integrity

Even the smallest mistakes within a transcript can twist the meaning of what the suspect said, and that simple mistake can send the whole investigation spiraling in the wrong direction.

For this reason, transcribers have a moral duty to be as accurate as humanly possible, guaranteeing that they capture every word the suspect utters and the real intent behind it. When the transcription process is off the mark, it can lead to some serious miscarriages of justice, like putting the wrong person behind bars or tossing out evidence that could’ve set the case wide open.

However, if investigators want to avoid these headaches, they should partner with transcription professionals who know the criminal justice system inside and out and maintain >99% accuracy rates, like Ditto Transcripts.

Impartiality and Objectivity

When it comes to transcribing suspect interviews, the person typing them out needs to stay neutral, NO MATTER WHAT. Personal opinions or judgments can twist the suspect’s words and paint a different picture. Biased transcriptions can wreak havoc in the works as they can mess up the fairness and integrity of the whole investigation.

Therefore, transcribers need to stick to the script and relay what’s said in the interview— word for word—without letting their thoughts get in the way. An impartial transcription is an unbiased play-by-play of what the suspect said, and that’s needed to make sure the legal system serves fair decisions.

Trauma-Informed Approach

Even though transcriptionists aren’t face-to-face with suspects, they must remember that many of these people may have faced tough life challenges. Trauma can seriously mess with how a person remembers events or keeps their emotions in check during an interview.

For that reason, transcriptionists are better trained to recognize signs of trauma in the recordings so they can adjust their approach to ensure they don’t accidentally misrepresent the suspect’s statements. It also means being mindful of language and tone recording that might be triggering, even if unintentional.

Chain of Custody

Keeping a tight custody chain is also a major ethical must-do. There must be a clear record of everyone who’s seen or changed the interview document. This is an important factor in guaranteeing that evidence is as legitimate as possible, holds up to scrutiny in court, and can be used for qualitative research.

If the chain of custody is loose, it can raise doubts about whether the transcribed record is reliable, derailing the case. 

Maintaining Transparency

One of the most critical ethical considerations when transcribing suspect interviews is transparency.

To keep everything transparent, a clear protocol is needed to transcribe these interviews so everyone can stay on the same page. This is also one of the reasons why law enforcement professionals should let reputable transcription service providers do the job.

Moreover, transcriptionists must review their work to guarantee they’re hitting the mark. It’s also important that everyone involved in the case can easily access these transcripts so they can examine the content or raise concerns if something seems amiss.

Suppose transparency isn’t a top priority in this operation. In that case, it can obstruct the fairness of the entire legal proceeding and, much worse, erode the public’s trust in the criminal justice system.

Playing by the rules is important for transcribers working in the legal world. They need to understand regulations like the attorney-client privilege, CJIS, and the Privacy Act of 1974—all designed to keep people’s private information under wraps. That is because law enforcement transcribers have a front-row seat to sensitive details.

Officers must handle information with care and utmost respect for confidentiality. If they don’t, they could be in for a world of hurt—legal trouble, a ruined reputation, and, worst of all, throwing the people whose details they’re protecting under the bus. 

Plus, if word gets out that confidentiality is being violated, it can make people think twice about trusting the legal system to have their back.

That’s why transcribers need to know the rules inside and out and have the backbone to follow them regardless of the circumstances.

Laws Governing Sensitive Information in The Criminal Justice System

Below are some regulations governing the handling of sensitive information in the sector.

    Ethics of AI in Law Enforcement Transcription

    It’s natural that organizations want to save money. Saving a few bucks to transcribe an interview, however, can be problematic.

    These days, AI is being used more and more for transcription. However, the best automated speech recognition software, even bolstered by AI, can only reach up to 86% accuracy. 

    It doesn’t matter if we’re transcribing entertainment podcasts or life-altering court hearings and police interviews—86%, or 14 errors for every 100 words, is simply unacceptable when people’s liberties are at stake.

    Transcription Professionals in Upholding Ethics and Integrity in Investigations

    Transcriptionists have quite a role in keeping things above board. They’re the ones tasked with making sure suspect interviews are accurately documented without any personal spin or bias creeping in. It’s a huge responsibility, meaning they must be sticklers for professional standards like confidentiality from start to finish.

    Even if someone tries to pressure them to change or remove something that could sway the case, transcriptionists need to stand their ground by adhering to their ethical standards. They’re the unbiased witnesses to the whole interview process. If something seems not quite above board, it’s their job to raise a red flag.

    Why Choose Ditto As Your Law Enforcement Transcription Partner?

    Get the best services for the most affordable rates. Our services include:

    • High Accuracy: Our professional human transcription service provides the highest possible levels of accuracy. Law enforcement transcripts are over 99% accurate as they come.
    • Flexible Turnaround Times: Depending on the project, we can provide rush transcripts within one or two days for those who need things done quickly.
    • Stringent Security Measures: Every evidence obtained is highly safeguarded. Our CJIS compliance and encryption protocols will optimally protect your confidential information. We’ll answer any questions you have about our security and will be more than happy to provide proof of certification.
    • U.S.-Based Company: We are based in America. All of our transcribers are native speakers, so we can transcribe interviews or recordings with the strongest accent. 
    • Proven Track Record: We’ve provided high-quality transcription services to the law enforcement industry since 2010. So, rather than relying on untested providers or fancy AI tools, put your trust in our long, proven history.
    • Flexibility: Need timestamps or verbatim transcripts? Just send us the audio recordings, say the word, and we’ll get it done.
    • No Long-term Contracts: Pay for what you need, when you need it, without worrying about getting tied up with long-term service commitments (though I guarantee your firm will be back for more.

    Let us Handle Your Law Enforcement Transcription Needs

    Never worry about the ethical considerations of transcribing suspect interviews. Here at Ditto, we hold accuracy, quality, and integrity above all else.  

    Ditto Transcripts is a Denver, Colorado-based, CJIS-compliant transcription services company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcripts for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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