'CSI' Inspires NYPD to Video Tape Interrogations, Commissioner Says

NYC to become country's largest police department recording interrogations.

September 19, 2012, 1:03 PM

Sept. 19, 2012— -- Police officers in New York City will soon videotape many more interrogations of suspects because jurors are so used to seeing taped interviews on television shows like "CSI" they've come to expect recordings as routine, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said today.

"We believe there's a growing expectation on the part of juries that interviews will be recorded. Call it part of the 'CSI' effect," Kelly said today in a speech at the Carnegie Council, an international affairs think tank.

CSI, the popular police show on TV, "has helped fuel an assumption that these tools are a given in law enforcement. We want to continue to stay ahead of the curve with the help of our recording initiative," Kelly said.

Police in New York have long recorded some suspects' confessions, but in 2010 NYPD officers began recording entire interrogations of suspects accused of felony assault in two precincts in Brooklyn and the Bronx as part of a pilot program. In August, that program was expanded to five precincts.

Under Kelly's new proposal, recordings will expand to all 76 of the city's precincts, making New York the largest police department in the country to record "post-arrest statements," and bringing the city in line with the vast majority of departments in New York State that already videotape interrogations.

The recording initiative will first expand to suspects accused of murder and sex crimes.

Already more than two-thirds of police departments in New York State, 341 of 509, require officers to tape interrogations, according to the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services. Across the country 18 states and Washington, D.C., require police to record their interviews, according to the Innocence Project, an organization that promotes using technology to prevent wrongful convictions.

"Recording can aid not only the innocent, the defense and the prosecution, but also enhance public confidence in the criminal justice system," Kelly said.

"The challenge for the commissioner is always trying to build public trust," said Eugene O'Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor and now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

"Cameras for the police really have not been a problem. They have actually had a positive impact because they are mostly acting properly on the street and in station houses. After [officers] get used to cameras, they tend to embrace them because they [cameras] vindicate them," he said.

As recently as August the Detective Endowment Association, the union representing NYPD detectives, opposed plans to expand recording citywide because the tapes would give criminals tips for what to expect in an interrogation and because jurors might be turned off by hardnosed police techniques.

Michael Palladino, the union president and spokesman, was not immediately available for comment when contacted by ABC News.

"Getting a statement can be an adversarial process," O'Donnell said. "You have to hope that jurors looking at these videos are mature enough to understand this isn't a conversation. Despite all the new science out there, actually getting people to make statements is still vital in prosecuting cases."

Kelly said the first stage of the program to install equipment, refurbish police stations and train cops would be paid for with a $3 million grant from the New York City Police Foundation, a non-profit organization that donates money for NYPD projects outside the department's budget.