BY FACSIMILE AND FIRST CLASS MAIL
August 13, 2003
Michael R. Bloomberg
City of New York
New York, N.Y. 10007
New York City Police Department
1 Police Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10038
Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly:
On behalf of the New York Civil Liberties Union, we write to bring to your attention efforts we understand are underway to change City policy concerning the issuance of Miranda warnings to persons who are being interrogated by the NYPD following their arrest. To the extent the City is considering such a change in policy, we urge you to reject it and to confirm the City’s commitment to the important constitutional protections afforded by Miranda warnings.
Since the spring we have been discussing the City’s position concerning Miranda warnings with a senior member of the Law Department. The issue first arose in the aftermath of the NYCLU’s public disclosure in April that protesters charged with minor offenses at demonstrations were being interrogated by the NYPD about their political activities and affiliations. As our original April 8 letter about the interrogations to Commissioner Kelly explained, the reports we received at that time indicated not only that the political interrogations were taking place but also that those being interrogated were not being given Miranda warnings and were being questioned outside the presence of counsel.
Following several conversations on the subject, we wrote to the Law Department on April 21 and requested that the City take steps to assure that anyone arrested at a demonstration be given Miranda warnings before being interrogated about any matter. As noted in that letter, it was our understanding at that time that the City did not dispute its obligation to provide Miranda warnings to such persons and further that it intended to take steps to assure that the warnings be given.
However, when we followed up on this matter in June, we were informed that the City was considering revisiting its position about Miranda warnings in light of an intervening decision from the Supreme Court of the United States. In response, we informed the Law Department that it was our belief that this would be a serious mistake as a matter of public policy and, moreover, that the NYPD Patrol Guide, independent of the federal Constitution, required that Miranda warnings be given to all persons who were in NYPD custody and who were to be interrogated.
We were then informed that the NYPD intended to review the Patrol Guide and was considering making changes to its policies to allow the Department to forego Miranda warnings in some circumstances. Over the last ten days, we several times have asked the Law Department to inform us of any changes the City is planning to make to its Miranda policies but have received no response.
We therefore write to bring this matter to your attention and to request that you reject any effort to authorize the NYPD to dispense with Miranda warnings as a matter of policy. We do not agree with the Law Department’s suggestion that the federal Constitution allows a police department to adopt a policy of not providing Miranda warnings. Moreover, the New York State Constitution imposes independent obligations on the NYPD that are unaffected by Supreme Court rulings about the federal Constitution.
More important, perhaps, is the fact that Miranda warnings have been an integral and successful part of the American criminal justice system for over thirty-five years. No legitimate purpose would be served by dispensing with this fundamental procedure, which is designed to assure fairness for those under arrest by informing them of their constitutional rights and protecting them against coercive interrogations.
We would like to meet with appropriate City officials at their earliest convenience to discuss this matter.
Associate Legal Director
c: Stephen Hammerman, NYPD Deputy Commissioner, Legal Matters
Gail Donoghue, Special Assistant to the Corporation Counsel