WASHINGTON -- A "sweeping" new Justice Department policy that instructs federal agents with the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service to electronically record statements that suspects make in custody under most circumstances will protect both the constitutional rights of defendants and benefit law enforcement, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video posted by the Justice Department on Thursday.
"Federal agents and prosecutors throughout the nation are firmly committed to due process in their rigorous and evenhanded enforcement of the law," Holder said. "This new recording policy not only reaffirms our steadfast commitment to these ideals -- it will provide verifiable evidence that our words are matched by our deeds. And it will help to strengthen the robust and fair system of justice upon which all Americans depend -- and which every American deserves."
The policy, which goes into effect on July 11, will bring federal agents up to speed with many of their state and local counterparts, who regularly record statements that suspects make in custody.
Holder said creating an electronic record "will ensure that we have an objective account of key investigations and interactions with people who are held in federal custody" and "allow us to document that detained individuals are afforded their constitutionally protected rights." It would also provide a "backstop" so that federal officials "have clear and indisputable records of important statements and confessions made by individuals who have been detained."
For criminal defense lawyers, the policy change is long overdue. National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Jerry J. Cox welcomed the change and said that recording interrogations "protects the accused against police misconduct, protects law enforcement against false allegations, and protects public safety by ensuring a verbatim record of the interrogation process and any statements."
Watch Holder's video above and read the memo on the new policy below.