New York Resists Taping Suspects, Cites Logistics

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The New York Police Department is resisting the idea of videotaping interrogations and confessions, the New York Times reports. “I don’t see a need, quite frankly,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. With 220,000 to 250,000 arrests each year, “The logistics of it are mind-boggling for an agency this size.”

More police departments are taping interrogations, partly because of increased attention to wrongful convictions, more than 20 percent of which involve false confessions. This year, Illinois became the third state, after Minnesota and Alaska, to require taping. San Antonio, Washington, and Miami have begun taping or will do so.

Among questions that would need to be answered before taping would start, the Times says: In questioning a witness who is not initially a suspect, when would taping begin? Would videotaping discourage suspects from sharing knowledge of other crimes and perpetrators? Would the suspects know they were being taped? What would stop defense lawyers from saying coercion occurred before the cameras started rolling?

Some places have decided that the value of taping exceeds the problems. Some policies have made exceptions for malfunctioning equipment, or specified that taping must start when the person being questioned is informed of his rights.

John Timoney, a former first deputy police commissioner in New York who now heads the Miami Police Department, has set up interrogation rooms with cameras for use in serious crimes. Suspects must agree to be taped. Unrecorded statements made at a crime scene or en route to police headquarters are admissible. Start-up costs were minimal, and the only major cost concern was tape storage. “New York is much more difficult, but even there, you could do the precinct detectives, the borough detectives,” Timoney said.


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