New Interrogation Pilot Program Raises Controversy

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is testing a new pilot program that requires some criminal interrogations to be videotaped. Police precincts from each of the city's five boroughs (Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) will be required to record interrogations. In the United States, 18 states and Washington D.C. require some types of criminal interrogations to always be recorded. New York defense attorneys and advocates of criminal reform are hopeful that the new pilot plan will eventually lead to mandatory interrogation recordings throughout the rest of the state.

Why are the videos so important? Defense attorneys hope that recorded interrogations lead to fewer false confessions caused by police misconduct, abuse or coercion. Additionally, the NYPD and the City of New York could avoid false claims and lawsuits. So far, the only hindrance to the program is the actual process of storing and processing the video footage. Storing and processing the videos could become costly, and some aren't sure if the benefits are worth the cost.

The Detective Endowment Association (the union that represents detectives in for the NYPD) opposes the videotaping, too. According to the Detective Endowment Association, the tapes could reveal allow future interrogation subjects to become familiar with the process – rending their interrogation techniques less effective. Thus, the association is afraid that the videos will make it more difficult for detectives to legally procure legitimate confessions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the program has been somewhat disappointing so far – mostly because of the small number of interrogations and case dispositions that have been returned. Additionally, there hasn't been an official method of tracking the recordings to test their effectiveness. Whether or not the new program will actually be effective is yet to be seen. Until then, proponents of the interrogation videotapes will have to wait and see if the program is truly worth expanding.

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