Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. today announced $500,000 in funding for local law enforcement agencies to further expand their ability to record criminal interrogations. The funding is available to district attorneys’ offices, police departments and sheriffs’ offices outside of New York City, and is part of a State initiative to expand the practice, which is widely recognized as a best practice for enhancing the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
“Video footage has become an essential tool in criminal investigations, and we must equip our police agencies with the most up-to-date technology to record in-custody interrogations.” Governor Cuomo said. “This footage can be critical in preventing a wrongful conviction or protecting investigators from false accusations. By ensuring that local police agencies have adequate equipment to record interrogations, we are protecting the fairness and integrity of our criminal justice system while making our communities safer.”
District Attorney Vance said: “As we know from our experience in New York City, filming custodial interrogations creates an objective record of what was stated and what was not, which protects suspects, police officers, and prosecutors alike. The result is a stronger body of evidence with which to build our cases, and an additional safeguard against wrongful convictions for defendants. Using criminal forfeiture funds seized in our financial crime prosecutions, my Office continues to invest in public safety infrastructure in New York City, New York State, andaround the country, and we are excited to work with Governor Cuomo on this initiative to equip our partner agencies all across the state.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will provide half of the funding, using criminal asset forfeiture funds it obtained through settlements with international banks for violating U.S. sanctions. This is first time the DA’s Office has provided funding to the state for this purpose. It is being matched by other federal funds administered by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), which will review proposals and distribute the grants.
The New York State Municipal Police Training Council – an eight-member board of law enforcement officers appointed by the Governor and staffed by DCJS – issued a model policy on the practice in 2013. The policy is designed to provide law enforcement executives with best practices and establishes guidelines for capturing a suspect’s statements on video. Agencies are not required to adopt the model policy. DCJS also offers an online training aimed at teaching investigators the skills and strategies that are useful in recording interviews.
New York State has provided more than $3 million to law enforcement across the state to support video recording, including $1 million most recently awarded in 2013. All 62 counties in New York have at least one law enforcement agency with the capability to video record interrogation interviews; most counties have multiple agencies that can video record interrogations.
Police departments and sheriffs’ offices must collaborate with their county district attorney’s office to apply for the funding. Priority will be given to agencies that did not receive funding in 2013. The grants can be used to either purchase or install video recording equipment in police departments and sheriffs’ offices that have not yet implemented the technology or to upgrade older equipment.
Former Monroe County District Attorney and DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said:“Video recording of suspect interrogations is a powerful tool to help hold offenders responsible for their conduct. In conjunction with other evidence, these video recordings that capture a suspect’s own words, actions and attitudes can greatly enhance law enforcement’s ability to solve crimes, but also prevent wrongful convictions and protect police officers and departments from unfounded claims of misconduct and civil lawsuits.”
President of the New York State Bar Association, Claire P. Gutekunst, said: “The granting of these funds is an important step. The recording of criminal interrogations ensures the integrity of the fact-finding process. It reduces false confessions as well as false claims that a suspect’s statement was coerced. The New York State Bar Association has long supported mandatory recording of complete custodial interrogations. We are heartened that the District Attorneys’ Association of the State of New York and the Innocence Project have joined us in supporting legislation that would provide for mandatory recording.”
The Bar Association, District Attorneys’ Association and the Innocence Project jointly support legislation requiring video recording in certain serious crimes and allowing the admissibility at trial of photo arrays that use enhanced identification procedures. New York is the only state that prohibits the introduction of photo arrays, which police show to witnesses as a way to identify individuals involved in a crime.
District Attorneys’ Association President and Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe said: “District Attorneys around the state have made a concerted effort over the last several years to equip as many interrogation rooms as possible with videotaping equipment. Funding from DCJS has been instrumental in this effort. On behalf of my colleagues, I applaud New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and the Governor for continuing to support this important public safety initiative.”
Executive Director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, Margaret Ryan said: “We have been working with our criminal justice counterparts across the state for several years to enhance videotaping of interviews of suspects in criminal cases. Electronic recordings of custodial interrogations enhance the investigative process and assist in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases. The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police commend the Manhattan District Attorney and the state’s continued support of videotaping interviews as it not only promotes safe communities but builds the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system as well.”
The deadline for applying for the funding is Friday, Aug. 5, with grants scheduled to be awarded later this summer.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the states DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.