NYPD Reversal: Police Will Record Interrogations in All Murder and Sex Offense Cases

Posted: September 20, 2012 in False Confessions
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The New York Police Department has reversed itself: Commissioner Ray Kelly has announced that his Department will begin to record interrogations in all murder and sex offense cases in all of its precinct stations.

In a Sept. 2 op-ed piece in the New York Daily News, I argued that a small pilot program in which the NYPD recorded interrogations in felony assault cases in just two precincts should include serious crimes in the entire department, instead of just the small expansion to a few more precincts that the Department announced in August.   And there were reasons to expand the program that went beyond the protection of suspects from abuse.  Those resisting recording, I said, were ignoring the many benefits that police get when they record interrogations, including stronger evidence, fewer spurious motions to suppress, more guilty pleas, and protection against bogus charges of wrongdoing by detectives.

Yesterday, in a speech before the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Commissioner Kelly announced that the program would soon cover the entire department in murder and sex offense cases.  According to press reports, Kelly said that recording will have advantages for all involved — including the police.  “Recording can aid not only the innocent, the defense and the prosecution but also enhance public confidence in the criminal justice system by increasing transparency as to what was said and done when the suspect agreed to speak with the police.”

It’s worth noting that this won’t happen overnight.  Commissioner Kelly said that the Department was attempting to secure a $3 million grant from the Police Foundation to put the program in place, rather moving immediately using the Department’s own funds.   To some, the slow pace of change rankles.  For example, Steven Banks, the chief attorney at the Legal Aid Society in New York, told the Wall Street Journal that while the announcement shows a willingness to move in the right direction, he had concerns that “there isn’t a concrete timetable to finally put in place an initiative that could have a significant impact on wrongful convictions.”

Nevertheless, it is a significant reversal and represents real progress at one of the country’s leading police departments.  Dare we hope that this will mean that the NYPD will lead more of law enforcement in this direction in the coming years?

  1. […] and insightful comments.  The event took place just after NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly announced an expansion of the Department’s very small pilot program of recording interrogations, so police will record all interrogations in cases of murder or sexual offenses, in every precinct. […]

  2. DWR says:

    When an author includes all the relevant facts it makes for a more powerful article. The author was aware of the recording requirement in New Jersey because that fact appears in the OP-ED piece that appeared in the New York Daily News. If you Google the DIGIAMBATTISTA case you get almost a thousand results.

  3. DWR says:

    “Dare we hope that this will mean that the NYPD will lead more of law enforcement in this direction in the coming years” Really? I would say they are eight years behind the curve. Here in Massachusetts we have been required to record custodial interogations since 2004. Alaska,Illinois,Maine,Minnesota, New Jersey and Wisconsin also require taped interrogation. I am not sure on the dates of the other stated but the recording requirement in New Jersey started on January 1, 2006. I am not saying this is not an important step foward for NYPD. Intrestingly, the recording requirement in MA came from some State Troopers going NYPD Blue on a suspect. The case is COMMONWEALTH vs. VALERIO DIGIAMBATTISTA 442 Mass. 423. You can find the case here: http://masscases.com/cases/sjc/442/442mass423.html

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    • Yes, they are behind the curve. But, as one of the few agencies that every TV watching American knows about, the NYPD and what it does counts. So, though this comes very late, the NYPD could still end up taking a leadership position because of its high profile, and because so many other police agencies are even further behind.

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