During the 1988 trial of a Syracuse man for the murder of an 8-month-old, a judge tossed out an alleged confession when it became clear that the police department’s 18-page account of the man’s statement didn’t match up to the video record of the interrogation. According to an editorial in today’s Post-Standard, rather than take steps to ensure the reliability of interrogations, the Syracuse Police Department responded by limiting the number of interrogations it videotaped.
Even today, city investigators only provide “video recaps” after suspects confess to crimes. The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office also does limited videotaping.
The city police have resisted occasional requests to resume beginning-to-end videotaped interrogations. Now there is welcome new pressure for change — last week’s strong endorsement of the practice by the New York State District Attorneys Association. The prosecutors were joined by groups representing county sheriffs, the state police and police chiefs, as well as the New York City Police Department.
Onondaga County DA William Fitzpatrick has long backed videotaped interrogations, and he helped design the state association’s new protocols. In a letter to the editor published Sunday, he called on all county police departments to embrace the expanded videorecording guidelines, beginning Jan. 1.
Onondaga County’s police department is on board with the protocol, and as of Thursday, Syracuse was too. However on Friday, they changed their mind.
Continued resistance to the procedure raises troubling questions. Is there something the police don’t want prosecutors, defense lawyers and the public to see?