Interrogation techniques and their consequences:
Understanding aspects of the Reid Technique and its effectiveness in modern criminal justice
Felix Garcia Ortega
Florida International University
Literature Review: Reid Interrogation Technique
Interrogation is a key step in maintaining law and order. When suspects are arrested, it is important for law enforcers to ensure they have the correct suspects in custody and for the suspects to disclose information that may be useful in a court of law. There have often been concerns about the interrogation methods employed by law enforcers to get information from suspects or from witnesses. One commonly used mode of interrogation is the Reid Technique. According to Timothy Moore and Lindsay Fitzsimmons (2011), in their paper on justice impaired they look at the holes that exist in the Reid technique and how highly it is to lead on a suspect into admitting something they did not do. Moore points out that Redid Technique uses a line of questioning that tends to make a suspect believing that there is evidence that points into them.
Confessions are key evidence presented in a court of law as these are statements against one’s own interest. The criminal justice system regards confessions as reliable and at times just mere confessions can change the whole dynamic of a case. Reid technique is often the go-to technique for most officers as it is the easiest in squeezing out information from suspects while they are in the confession room (Kassin, 2010). Just as we see in the movies the tropes are familiar characterized by claustrophobic room, the repeated accusation that one is guilty of the offense that they have committed, presentation of evidence that links the suspect to the crime or to the scene which may be a real piece of evidence or may be invented and finally a buildup of pressure that makes the suspect feel that admitting to the crime is the easiest way home.
According to Moore and Fitzsimmons (2011), the Reid technique has resulted in high number of false convictions. Last year the docu-series When They See Us caused a stir among people as it told a story of five young boys referred to as Central Park Five. Central Park Five were boys who were found guilty of assaulting and raping Trisha Meli a jogger who was a white woman. Boys who were around the neighborhood were rounded up and five were charged for this case. One characteristic thing about the case is the interrogation that was used as all these boys confessed to committing the crime. In the documentary, they state that during the interrogation, there was pressure to confess to the crimes and were even convinced that if they did confess they would go home. These boys confessed because the confession seemed like the easiest thing to do but it is this confession that led to their conviction. There are dozens of cases that suspects later state that they did not intend to confess but rather there was pressure from the interrogation officer to confess however, it is their statement that bites them as prosecuting officers will use these confessions to argue their case.
Eli Hager in an article titled “Seismic Change in Police Interrogation” highlights how most police officers are abandoning this old technique because it has become outdated. The techniques were developed in the 1940s and 5os by John Reid whose intention was to replace the traditional error of interrogation including beatings that police officers would use to get confessions (Hager, 2017). It is for a fact that technology in the criminal justice world was not as advanced as now thus getting confessions was important in ensuring one has sufficient evidence, I try a case. However, in this era that we are living in, the technology can help solve a crime without having to solicit forced confessions. There are CCCTVs everywhere that may support or refute an alibi, DNA evidence which is the current strongest form of evidence can be used in determining if a suspect is guilty or not. According to project innocence, most suspects that have been exonerated using DNA evidence were judged because of their confessions.
David Dixon in his article on “Questioning Suspects” states several reasons as to why a person may falsely confess. Some of these reasons include not having a lawyer or a legal guardian in the room, mental disability, pronged hours of questioning, being put in jail before questioning and intimidation from interrogation officer. Dixon notes that all these are characterized in the Reid technique. The technique creates a conformational bias in the mind of the investigators as all they want to do is to get a confirmation (Dixon, 2010). This results in them overwhelming the suspects to the point that the suspects feel that telling the truth is not a viable option for them. Reid technique used trickery and deception and as Wicklander-Zulawski stated there are no clear lines on the good amount of trickery and deception that one may employ and to what extent can they play the tricks and deception on the suspects.
Torture s one interrogating technique that has often been debated on how effective or non-effective it is. In some cases, Reid techniques are often not as convenient as they should be. Sometimes especially tough criminals do not often easily crack up from police intimidation and do not fall the tricks and deception played by the police during the investigation. While Redid technique abuses the mind, torture causes physical harm to the body. Torture refers to the deliberate as well as the systematic dismantling of an individual’s individuality besides humanity by subjecting them to physical or emotional pain plus suffering. The main of torture is destroying a sense of community, elimination of some leaders for example from society or nation and also it is aimed at creating an environment of fear in a specific culture.
Some researchers have often pointed out that certain investigation may not be solved easily using Reid technique for example terror suspects (Fiala, 2006). Terror suspects are often ready to die for their cause and may not really reveal any useful information during interrogation even with the use of tricks and deception. Terror cases are cases that have the least number of false confessions. People have often supported the use of torture in getting information from the terrorist on planned bombing or active cells that they may have in a country and their intention to bomb a country. In some aspects, torture can be seen as a Reid technique. Aside from inflicting bodily harm, a witness is put in an uncomfortable situation that may result in them yielding demands thus creating room for negation. For example, the torture may involve deprivation of water and food and because as humans we cannot survive for so long without certain basic amenities we eventually crack and disclose the information that is needed by the police officers.
Wyatt Kozinski in a research article on Reid technique and how it often contributes to false confession links use of torture to Reid technique. Kozinski points out that the technique uses Third Degree which is illegal in the United States. In 1897, the Supreme court made a ruling against type of inducement that was likely to cast a shadow on doubt of voluntary confessions. Wyatt points out that when Reid was introducing the technique, only the guilty suspects were supposed to be investigated but most police officers are employing the technique even to people who are innocent (Kozinski, 2017). The aim of the interrogator is to get the narrative of the crime, However, in most interrogations, police officers hint to the suspect the aspects of the crime and while confessing, the suspect may use the story in fabricating a confession just to be done with the interrogation. There have been cases where suspects have given details of a crime they did not know about because they got the hints of the crime from the law enforcers.
The Miranda warning of 1966 was a ruling by the court that stated police officers needed to inform the suspects that t they have the right to remain silent and the right to consult an attorney, and that anything they say may be used against them in court” (Beechy, 2014). This was passed in order to ensure police officers would not overstep their power in getting confessions from their suspects. However, most suspect often agree to talk even without a lawyer present without realizing how soon things can escalate in the interrogation room The Reid technique is becoming obsolete and people are poking holes into its validity. Wicklander-Zulawski and associates recently stated that it would discontinue their teaching on the Reid method. Other police precincts including the Chicago Police department have also hinted on discontinuation on the use of the Reid technique in their investigation.
In conclusion, there are vast scholarly materials that looks at advantages as well as the disadvantages of using the Reid technique. One thing that most parties agree however is that in most cases Reid technique is likely to result in false confessions. We also live in an error that officers do not have to use tricks and techniques to get information. DNA evidence CCTV surveillance, phone records are new ways that police officers can use in getting vital information without subjecting the witness to believing that the only way out for them is by confessing to having committed the crime.
Interrogation is a key part when it comes to investigations of a crime. Through interrogation, an officer is in a position to know if the evidence provided is sufficient and how they can link the suspect to the crime. Through interrogation, a suspect may end up revealing some information that may had actually not presented itself. However, with the increase in number of false admissions to a crime, investigations such as the Redid technique have raised eyebrows on how effective they are (Clearly, 2016). Interrogation needs to be fair and just and a suspect should not ever feel that they have undue pressure resulting in them admitting to a crime that they had no idea of even from the word go. This paper will look at recommendations that can be applied to prevent the biases that exist on the Reid investigation.
Aside from interrogation, the admission of the criminal should be collaborated with DNA evidence. DNA analysis is currently the key method or reliable, method used by law enforcers to solve a crime. DNA is collected from blood saliva, hair or any bodily fluids. Most time there are DNA evidences that are obtained and when run against available samples there is always no match. Collecting DNA databases from offenders will help in the expansion of the database and may increase the chances of solving certain crimes such as rape. There have been concern that those who are often accused and late found to be innocent will have a violation of their privacy, although this may be true, I however think that their DNA being present in the database is not a violation of privacy. It may be used in other further helpful ways for example identification of bodies of victims that have been burned or charred (Peterson, 2010).
DNA sampling is the same as fingerprint ample which is provided in the database. The DNA database will serve more purpose when compared to the arguments against. These will help in convicting criminals and exonerating those who have been arrested and falsely accused. The right to privacy has often been used to argue a lot of things when it comes to crime for example in cybercrime issue on surveillance and privacy will often be raised. However, I think in cases when we need to compromise as long as a law is helping the society such as prevention of crime it should be implemented. As long as the collected evidence is not used for any other purpose than its intended purpose, this should not be a worry. If the DNA evidence can corroborate the suspects statement, then his statement can be taken and used in the prosecution.
There are other forensic psychology techniques much more useful than use of Reid method. One way is the use of forensic psychology a field that applies clinical skills in assessment, treatment and evaluation of forensic evidence in application of both research and experimentation (Roesch, 2017). As humans we tend to talk to people, we like or relate with for longer period. When one is giving a story, it may be hard to divert from the truth but if one does, forensic psychology tries to pick up factors that may prove one may be lying to the law enforcement. Kinesics Interview Method is one way that law enforcers can tell if a person is telling the truth. Kinesics involves the study of various non-verbal communication in order to establish if someone is lying. Forensic psychologist gets to observe and analyze a suspect behavior and can be in a position to determine instances of deception as well as truthfulness in a conversation. Kinesics method is a four-point process incorporating orientation, narration, cross-examination and resolution. Information obtained in the first step is vital as it helps the investigator break a cycle of deception through confrontation of negative-response emotional states (Ireland, 2017).
Peace method is another form of investigation that can be used instead of Reid technique. This form of investigation does not use any form of deception or lying to get information from a suspect. The technique is non-accusatory as it dwells on either proving or disapproving theories on the subject. This technique believes that a suspect is likely to tell a lot of lies that may eventually tie him down. The method is straight forward there is no undue pressure that may make the suspect feel as if they need to confess. When a person tells a lot of lies, it reaches a point where they get confused about their stories and they are no longer in a position to state which story is the truth and which is a lie. An advantage t using this method is that people are less likely to confess to crimes they did not commit and thus getting wrongful conviction is not quite as easy when compared to the Reid technique. Studies have proven that building a friendly rapport with a suspect may result in them saying the truth and when in a relaxed environment they can yield much more valuable information that can be helpful in a case (Leo, 2016).
In conclusion, there are other useful interrogation techniques that can be utilized in helping a police investigation. Reid technique has been the to go to method, but times have changed, and this technique is not proving to be as useful as it was years ago. There are better ways that the investigators can get convictions without intimidation for example through the use of forensic DNA analysis that can tie a suspect to a crime scene. There are other techniques that have also proved useful including the Kinesics method and peace method that can be utilized much more often. It is therefore important for law enforcers to be highly trained on how they can conduct interrogation in much better and less intimidating ways.
From the research, it is quite evident on the importance that interrogation procedures do bear. Reid Technique has proved to be a traditional method far behind time with advancement of technology and should be abandoned. Often, when correct procedures are used, then the right information will be obtained from a witness or a suspect. The use of force is evidently wrong as it leads to obtaining of false information as at times people may end up confessing because of fear. Law enforcers tend to have a demeanor in them that may invoke fear among them, a suspect or a witnesses and they may end up admitting statements used against them these statement are often so strong that it may result in their jail time. There is so much technological advancement that has been witnessed for example use of CCTV cameras or forensic evidence in ensuring that much more reliable information is obtained from a suspect without coercion or without letting them feel as if the need to confess is the only way out.
There should be reforms that should be carried out within the police force to ensure that all law enforcer do away with the Reid Technique and utilize far much more useful techniques such as the use of Kinesics method whereby there is observation of non-verbal communication. Through this interview method certain cues may indicate someone is lying for example uneasiness by shaking of leg. Another method is the Peace method where no deception is used in obtaining information. Through use of these techniques, then a law officers is at a better position to ensure that the evidence presented is far much reliable and can be corroborated using Forensic evidence before it is presented in a court of law. When better interrogation techniques are used instead of the Reid Method then there is likely to be far much less wrongful convictions.
Beechy, M. (2014). Miranda v. Arizona (1966): Its Impact on Interrogations.
Cleary, H., & Warner, T. C. (2016). Police training in interviewing and interrogation methods: A comparison of techniques used with adult and juvenile suspects. Law and human behavior, 40(3), 270.
Dixon, D. (2010). Questioning Suspects: A Comparative Perspective. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 26(4), 426–440.
Fiala, A. (2006). A Critique of Exceptions: torture, terrorism, and the lesser evil argument. International Journal of Applied Philosophy, 20(1), 127-142.
Hager, E. (2017, March 8). The Seismic Change in Police Interrogations. Retrieved from https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/03/07/the-seismic-change-in-police-interrogations
Ireland, J. L., Ireland, C. A., Fisher, M., & Gredecki, N. (Eds.). (2017). The Routledge International Handbook of Forensic Psychology in Secure Settings. Taylor & Francis.
Kassin, S. M., Bogart, D., & Kerner, J. (2012). Confessions that corrupt: Evidence from the DNA exoneration case files. Psychological science, 23(1), 41-45.
Kozinski, W. (2017). The Reid interrogation technique and false confessions: A time for change. Seattle J. Soc. Just., 16, 301.
Leo, R. A. (2016). Police Interrogation, False Confessions, and Alleged Child Abuse Cases. U. Mich. JL Reform, 50, 693.
Moore, T. E., & Fitzsimmons, C. L. (2011). Justice imperiled: False confessions and the Reid technique. Crim. LQ, 57, 509.
Peterson, J., Sommers, I., Baskin, D., & Johnson, D. (2010). The role and impact of forensic evidence in the criminal justice process. National Institute of Justice, 1-151.
Roesch, R., & Zapf, P. A. (2016). Forensic psychology.
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