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NYSBA supports recorded interrogations

New York State Bar Association President David M. Schraver on Tuesday commended Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his efforts in support of the recording of custodial interrogations, a long-standing legislative priority of the association.

The governor Monday announced an additional $1 million in state grants for localities to purchase, install or upgrade equipment to videotape interrogations.

The state bar has been at the forefront of the effort to require the use of video recordings of interrogations to improve the criminal justice system; first securing funding for recording equipment in the 2006 state budget and then collaborating with several district attorneys to implement a pilot project.

“Currently, law enforcement agencies videotape interrogations on a voluntary basis,” said Schraver of Rochester (Nixon Peabody LLP). “What is needed is a state law that requires videotaping of custodial interrogations. The state bar long has advocated the mandatory videotaping of interrogations. We urge the governor and Legislature to enact such a law.”

He added that funding the purchase of video recording equipment will provide law enforcement agencies with a powerful tool but that can exonerate the innocent or convict the guilty.

The practice of electronically recording custodial interrogations has been on the increase. Recording ensures the integrity of the fact-finding process by documenting the full course of the interrogation. It reduces false denials of incriminating admissions or claims that such admissions were obtained by coercion or intimidation.

Recording also improves the quality of interrogations through monitoring by supervisors, use of recordings for training purposes, and the use of taped admissions to confront suspected accomplices. Finally, recording helps prevent the mistreatment of detainees and reduces the likelihood that they can lodge false complaints of physical or psychological abuse.

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