Professor Alan Hirsch misrepresents the Reid Technique

Written By: Reid
Sep 16, 2019
It was brought to our attention that in the case Ohio v. Richardson (broadcast on Court TV) that Professor Alan Hirsch testified on behalf of the defense stating that in his opinion, the confession made by the defendant was coerced and included in his testimony a statement that the investigators used a very aggressive version of the Reid Technique in which they promised the defendant that nothing would happen to them if they confessed.

While we do not know what was said in this interrogation - we have not see the transcript or video - we teach that investigators should never make a promise of leniency to the subject. Professor Hirsch has repeatedly tried to claim that the Reid Technique is coercive, but as one federal judge stated, "Although Professor Hirsch insisted that 'there is a wealth of information about the risks of the Reid technique,' he could point to none."*

Here are the core principles of the Reid Technique:

Do not make any promises of leniency

Do not threaten the subject with any physical harm or inevitable consequences

Do not conduct interrogations for an excessively lengthy period of time

Do not deny the subject any of their rights

Do not deny the subject the opportunity to satisfy their physical needs

Withhold information about the details of the crime from the subject so that if the subject confesses the disclosure of that information can be used to confirm the authenticity of the statement

Exercise special cautions when questioning juveniles or individuals with mental or psychological impairments

Always treat the subject with dignity and respect

The confession is not the end of the investigation - investigate the confession details in an effort to establish the authenticity of the subject's statement

* US v. Jacques (784 F.Supp.2d 59)
Here is a more complete statement from the Judge re Alan Hirsch:

In his declaration and at the hearing, Professor Hirsch explained that the primary cause of coerced compliant confessions are certain interrogation methods employed by law enforcement, including a widely used method known as the Reid technique. Beyond his own intuition, however, Professor Hirsch offered no basis for concluding that these tactics had any tendency necessarily to cause false, rather than true, confessions.

... Professor Hirsch's declaration offered no other evidence of the danger of certain police interrogation tactics, and the Reid technique in particular, except to say that the use of these tactics [employed in the Reid technique] and their correlation with false confessions are extensively documented in the literature....Despite this broad statement, he did not provide any further explanation.

In sum, the proffered expert testimony to the effect that the Reid technique enhanced the risk of an unreliable confession lacked any objective basis for support whatever. Although Professor Hirsch insisted that there is a wealth of information about the risks of the Reid technique, he could point to none.