(WBNG Binghamton) New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced $1 million in funding available to law enforcement agencies to video record criminal interrogations.
According to a news release from Cuomo's office:
The practice is widely recognized as enhancing the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system by helping to prevent wrongful convictions and protecting investigators from false allegations.
“Fairness and integrity form the foundation of our justice system, and New York State is committed to providing local law enforcement with the resources necessary to improve the effectiveness of the process,” Governor Cuomo said. “Wrongful convictions not only harm the innocent, but they allow the actual perpetrators of crime to remain free. The new equipment that will result from this funding will improve the strength of New York’s criminal justice system, making all New Yorkers safer as a result.”
Available through the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, the one-time grants will fund either the purchase and installation of video recording equipment for police departments and sheriffs’ offices that have not yet implemented the practice, or allow agencies to upgrade older equipment to ensure it functions properly.
Currently, 345 law enforcement agencies in 58 of the state’s 62 counties video record the interrogations of individuals suspected of committing crimes in their communities. These grant funds will allow the remaining agencies in those 58 counties that don’t currently video record interrogations to do so and also will expand the practice for the first time to agencies in Hamilton, Seneca, Schoharie and Tioga counties. There are more than 500 local and county agencies in the state.
DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green, who served as Monroe County District Attorney for eight years, said, “Having prosecuted cases that included recorded interrogations, I have seen first-hand what a powerful tool recording can be in helping hold those who commit heinous crimes accountable and at the same time helping ensure innocent people are not wrongfully convicted. This grant will provide resources to local law enforcement to help ensure our system is as fair as possible and works to protect all New York citizens.”
With this $1 million investment, New York State will have provided more than $3 million to agencies to support video recording, which has been endorsed as a best practice by the District Attorneys’ Association of New York State, the New York State Sheriffs’ Association and the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., president of the District Attorneys’ Association, said, “Recording police interrogations in the most serious criminal cases is an extremely valuable tool for law enforcement and is supported by district attorneys across the state. By allowing prosecutors to know exactly what the defendants say during interrogations, video recordings help us to convict the guilty and better evaluate claims of involuntary confessions. Expansion of this program has been limited by budgetary constraints, so we are grateful to Governor Cuomo for this important funding, as well as for his continuing commitment to keeping New Yorkers safe.”
Monroe County Sheriff Patrick M. O’Flynn, President of the Sheriff’s Association, said, “The sheriffs of New York State earlier joined with our partners in law enforcement to develop best practices for video recording of custodial interrogations. Since developing these best practices, many sheriffs have found video recordings to be a useful tool to effectively and accurately gather all the facts needed in a criminal investigation, both to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for crimes, and to protect those accused of a crime. We invite practices or processes that further improve our ability to prepare cases to ensure justice and withstand constitutional scrutiny."
New Windsor Police Chief Michael Biasotti, president of the Chiefs’ Association, said, “The video recording of interviews has afforded police, prosecution, defense and the courts with objective evidence of procedures, dialogue and environment. The association has developed guidelines for the recording of interviews, which are now in use by many police agencies throughout New York. The installation and maintenance of this equipment is often beyond the reach of municipal governments. We are grateful to the state for providing funding to support the systematic recording of interviews.”
The availability of these funds will allow agencies to implement recommendations of the New York State Justice Task Force (JTF), which was convened by New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to examine the causes of wrongful convictions and make recommendations for changes to the criminal justice system to safeguard against such convictions.
DCJS will receive and review grant applications, which must be submitted by district attorneys’ offices in cooperation with law enforcement agencies in their counties. The grant recipients are scheduled to be announced sometime this fall; DAs’ offices will receive the funds and provide them to the appropriate law enforcement agency in their respective counties.
In addition to administering the grant funds, district attorneys must partner with police agencies in their counties to develop video recording protocols to detail, among other items, the type of crimes with which an individual is charged that would require the interview to be recorded.