Helping a Reporter Understand the Reid Technique
Dear Mr. Ciaramella,
In your recent article entitled, “States Are Finally Starting To Rein in Deceptive Police Interrogation Techniques That Lead to False Confessions” you clearly misrepresent the Reid Technique. You stated that, "Threats, bluffs, and other ploys are all part of the police toolbox now in what's known as the Reid technique, the dominant method for conducting police interrogations for more than half a century. The Reid technique is guilt-presumptive, meaning the primary purpose is to get suspects to implicate themselves or confess.”
If you had taken any time at all to research the Reid Technique on your own, rather that simply rely on what others have stated about the Reid Technique, you would realize the fallacy of your statement.
Our YouTube channel, The Reid Technique Tips, we clearly detail the Reid Technique process, which always begins with a non-accusatory, non-confrontational information gathering conversation - an interview in which the investigator is a neutral, objective, nonjudgmental fact finder. It is only when the investigative information and evidence indicates the subject’s probable guilt that interrogation becomes appropriate.
Here are the Core Principles and Best Practices that we detail on our YouTube channel, and that we teach at all of our training courses:
• Do not make any promises of leniency
• Do not threaten the subject with any physical harm or inevitable consequences
• 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
• Conduct an interview before any interrogation. Absent a life-saving circumstance the investigator should conduct a non-accusatory interview before engaging in any interrogation
• Conduct an interrogation only when there is a reasonable belief that the suspect committed the issue under investigation or is withholding relevant information
• Attempt to verify the suspect's alibi before conducting an interrogation
• When interrogating a non-custodial suspect, do not deprive the suspect from his freedom to leave the room
• Do not conduct excessively long interrogations
• When a suspect claims to have little or no memory for the time period when the crime was committed the investigator should not lie to the suspect concerning incriminating evidence
• Electronically record the interview and interrogation
• The confession is not the end of the investigation.
Following the confession, the investigator should investigate the confession details in an effort to establish the authenticity of the subject's statement, as well as attempt to establish the suspect's activities before and after the commission of the crime.
As to the use of deception during an interrogation, we state (and teach) the following:
Numerous court decisions have upheld the investigator’s capacity to verbally misrepresent evidence during an interrogation. However, we due urge caution. From our book Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, we suggest the following:
• Introducing fictitious evidence during an interrogation presents a risk that the guilty suspect may detect the investigator’s bluff, resulting in a significant loss of credibility and sincerity. For this reason, we recommend that this tactic be used as a last resort effort.
• Introducing fictitious evidence should not be used for the suspect who acknowledges that he may have committed the crime even though he has no specific recollections of doing so.
• Introducing fictitious evidence should be avoided when interrogating a youthful suspect with low social maturity or a suspect with diminished mental capacity. These suspects may not have the fortitude or confidence to challenge such evidence and, depending on the nature of the crime, may become confused as to their own possible involvement if the police tell them evidence clearly indicates they committed the crime
It should also be noted that misrepresenting evidence in an otherwise proper interrogation does not cause innocent people to confess, but the “aggravating circumstances” within the interrogation can create an environment conducive to a false statement. Consider the court’s opinion in US v. Graham in which the court pointed out that there are a number of cases in which statements elicited from a defendant in response to police deception were found involuntary… but that, "these cases all involve significant aggravating circumstances… such as, subjecting the accused to an exhaustingly long interrogation, the application of physical force or the threat to do so, or the making of a promise that induces a confession.”
In other words, it is not the misrepresentation of evidence that is the genesis of a coerced or even false confession, but the "aggravating circumstances" present during the interrogation.
One of our YouTube presentations is entitled, “False Confessions - the Issues to be Considered - Parts One and Two". I have attached the pdf document that reflects the content of this presentation.
The next time you do a story on the Reid Technique you should do a better job researching the subject matter. (Please provide a copy of this email to your editor.)
John E. Reid and Associates