GREENBURGH, N.Y. – While Albany debates tougher interrogation standards for police, Greenburgh cops say they are already ahead of the game.
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would require police officers to videotape suspects as detectives question them, something Greenburgh Police say they have done during felony interrogations for years.
Lt. Brian Ryan, spokesman for the Greenburgh Police Department, said the tapes help in many ways, including when defense attorneys work to suppress a confession in court.
“The video helps us in the sense that, if there are any questions of impropriety or a question about validity, there is video for the court to discern or determine,” he said.
Prosecutors across the state have long taped criminal confessions, but proponents of recording the entire interrogation, including the New York State Bar Association, argue it will ensure those confessions are legitimate.
New York has the third-largest number of wrongful convictions in the country, according to the Innocence Project, a national institution dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people. And false confessions have played a factor in 44 percent of New York’s wrongful convictions, according to the group.
"Improperly conducted interrogations can and do result in false confessions,” New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James said in a news release. “The videotaping of an entire interrogation allows the judge and jurors to see for themselves whether police officers used proper procedures or coerced the defendant to confess.”
While more than a dozen states require interrogations to be recorded, the proposal has been stymied in New York in recent years, and has never been able to make it through the Senate.
The bill was introduced by a Brooklyn Assemblyman in January and passed by the Assembly on June 4, the same day it was introduced in the Senate. The Senate has yet to take action on it.
While Greenburgh headquarters are well-equipped should the plan be approved, the passing of the bill would likely result in changes at the Elmsford Police Department. Detective Robert Caralyus said the department does not currently have the equipment to record interrogations.
In serious cases, Elmsford detectives are usually assisted by police at the county level or in Greenburgh, using video recorders there.
What it would cost to the department to install that technology would remain to be seen, Caralyus said.
“We don’t know, because it hasn’t really come up in conversations,” he said.