NYPD Slow to Record Interrogations
August 14, 2012
Over two years after New York City’s Police Commissioner announced that the department would launch a pilot program to record interrogations in their entirety, only two precincts have actually tested the procedure, reported the Wall Street Journal. The police department limited the program to a precinct each in Brooklyn and the Bronx, but has recently announced that the program will be expanded to include one precinct in each of the five boroughs.
The pilot program is further limited because it records only felony assault interrogations and not interrogations from rape or murder investigations. The NYPD was unable to provide The Wall Street Journal with the total number of fully recorded interrogations or a comparison of conviction rates.
In approximately 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned with DNA evidence, defendants made false confessions, admissions or statements to law enforcement officials. The electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions. From the Wall Street Journal article:
Currently, 341 of the state’s 509 police agencies are recording suspect interviews in some crimes, typically in at least murder and rape investigations, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. By virtue of its pilot program, the NYPD is included among them.
Nationwide, 18 states and Washington, D.C., mandate the complete recording of interrogations for some crimes, said Rebecca Brown, director of state policy reform for the Innocence Project. A bill requiring either audio or video taping of interrogations in New York has passed the state Assembly but not the Senate.
Although other police departments across the country have embraced the policy of recording interrogations, a spokesman for the NYPD cited the financial and logistical challenge to record an array of interrogations in precincts across Manhattan, and the president of the NYPD’s Detective Endowment Association is wary of juries viewing gritty police interrogations.
Ultimately, the mandated electronic recording of the entire interrogation process protects the innocent, ensures the admissibility of legitimate confessions, and helps law enforcement defend against allegations of coercion.