Don’t be fooled.

Police interrogation
Don’t be fooled by ‘friendly’ police tactics.

Please don’t be fooled. Despite the fact that I’ve been a law enforcement officer for many years, I have found that the interview and interrogation techniques used by police don’t generally have your best interest in mind. I’m interested in making sure there is a level playing field between someone accused of a crime and the investigative community. Usually, there is a question of voluntariness and fair play. Which is more important, that investigators are not involved in any coercion or that the coercion is not unlawful? Courts look at this in different ways. Take, for example, situations where investigators pretend to be a friend to the accused (feigning friendship), or ‘pal up’ to them just to obtain a confession. I would consider this type of technique as being extremely coercive.

It’s not a new phenomenon that innocent people often confess to crimes and this confession is often unknowingly obtained. It’s reported that false confessions amount to approximately 28% of wrongful convictions.

Why? Coercive and persuasive interview techniques is certainly an issue relating to honest and legal confessions. What about wrongful interpretations of what the accused said? Certainly, the typical model of interrogations is guilt presumptive. Investigators are looking for responses that might indicate a person is deceptive and therefore likely to be guilty. They will often lie to a suspect about having evidence that does not even exist. Once they cross the threshold of a simple interview, a formal, more accusatorial interrogation begins. These interrogations are psychologically manipulative and are often presented by lying or manipulating the suspect. They will outright lie to the individual or attempt to minimize the criminal act. An investigator will often use techniques akin to the proverbial “when did you stop beating your wife” question. Interrogators will often offer alternative reasons for committing a crime, i.e. “Did you take the money and use it on drugs or did you take it to help out your sick son?” Either answer indicates theft, but one answer might seem like a lesser act and therefore more acceptable to the accused.

Confessions should be voluntary. To me, that means free of coercion or wrongful influence.

I’d recommend the following to overcome objections to faulty confessions, both on the part of police and individuals:

  • Video recording of all interviews
  • Not allow false evidence to be presented by police
  • Minimization themes are persuasive and should not be allowed
  • Limit the duration of interviews

Doing otherwise is a risk to the criminal justice system. Don’t be fooled. Never submit to an interview without your lawyer present.

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