Thank you, Seymour W. James Jr., President of the New York State Bar Association for your Oct. 1 Letter to the Editor of The New York Times (here) supporting videotaping of custodial police interrogations, widely recommended as a best practice that can reduce false confessions. As you noted, since 2004, the NY State Bar Association “has supported mandatory videotaping legislation and has sponsored successful pilot programs.” The legislation has been introduced repeatedly but failed passage again in the last session of the New York Legislature.
With Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s pledge to support NY City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s decision to voluntarily record interrogations in serious crimes, this important legislation may be more likely to pass for statewide utilization. New York should join Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia in requiring video recording to ensure the integrity of police interrogations. (State supreme courts have added Alaska, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Jersey to those using videotaping.)
Videotaping interrogations protects both defendants and public officials in criminal justice proceedings from frivolous accusations. It enables police detectives to spend less time taking notes and more focusing on the interview; less time testifying in court and more time investigating crimes. It permits a review of the interview to revisit exact wording and details. It provides an excellent tool for training. And it has been described as cost neutral…unless one factors in the high public and human cost of wrongful conviction. New Yorkers should voice support to their legislators at every opportunity to make certain this legislation does not get derailed again.