Creating a False Narrative - How They Intentionlly Mislead You

Written By: Joseph P Buckley
Feb 26, 2022

Creating a False Narrative - How They Intentionally Mislead You

Almost without exception, when a defense attorney, social psychologist or academician describes the Reid Technique, they start the discussion with statements along the following lines:

The Reid Technique is a guilt presumptive process, or

….a popular approach called the Reid Technique stresses assuming a suspect’s guilt, or

The Reid Technique is a method of interrogation. The Technique involves a nine-step process based on the presumption of the subject’s guilt. The first step involves directly confronting the suspect with a statement that it is known that he or she committed the crime, or

The intent, by design, is to try to create the false narrative that the Reid Technique begins with the investigator accusing the suspect of committing the crime……nothing could be further from the truth.

Defense lawyers, social psychologists and academicians know that the Reid Technique never (absent a life saving situation) starts with an interrogation or accusation of guilt. As they all know, the Reid Technique is a structured interview and interrogation process that involves three primary stages: Fact Analysis, the Investigative Interview and, when appropriate, the Interrogation.

Fact Analysis

Factual analysis consists of reviewing the case facts and evidence in an effort to identify the potential scope of suspects, the probability of the offender’s characteristics, and what their possible motive may have been.

As part of the investigator’s review and analysis of the case facts and evidence, they should identify what specific details about the crime they can use to corroborate any confession that is made in the case. There are two types of corroborating evidence – dependent, which refers to details about the case that the police know but choose to “hold back” - to conceal from the media and the suspects that they question. These details may include how the victim was killed; how and where entry was made into the building; where the accelerant was poured, etc.

The second type of corroborating evidence is referred to as independent – this refers to details of the crime that only the offender knows – details that the police do not have; such as where the murder weapon is located; how and where the subject disposed of their bloody clothes; the location of the stolen property; etc.

In the process of analyzing the case facts and evidence the investigator should develop a description of the of the crime scene; the way in which the crime appears to have been committed and the known details of its commission, i.e., implement used, place of entry or exit, any special knowledge required (such as a safe combination); and, the presence of any incriminating factors against a particular subject; etc.

Once the investigator has reviewed and analyzed the case facts and evidence, they should prepare an interview strategy, including a list of possible questions that need to be asked of each subject, including the victim, any witnesses and any suspects.

The Investigative Interview

At the outset of the interview the investigator must be sure to comply with all legal requirements, such as the appropriate advisement of rights. It is imperative that throughout the interview, the investigator maintains an objective, neutral, fact-finding demeanor.

The investigative interview, which we refer to as the Behavior Analysis Interview, should consist of three types of questions: questions about the subject’s background; questions that are relevant to the specific issue that is under investigation; and, behavior provoking questions.

The background questions generally focus on biographical information about the subject, which may include questions about the subject’s employment activities or if the subject is a student, their school activities; and, they may include some casual conversation about recent events (a news item, a sports event, a weather situation, etc.).

The purpose of spending several minutes on these topics is to establish rapport with the subject and to acclimate the subject to the interview environment and, most importantly, to establish a behavioral baseline – the subject’s normal behaviors (posture, eye contact, use of illustrators, etc.).

The investigative questions will deal with the issue that is under investigation. One of the first things the investigator should do is ask the subject an open-ended question that invites the subject to tell their story. If it is a victim, what happened? If it is a witness, what did they see or hear? If it is a suspect, what were their activities on the day in question? After the subject relates their initial story or version of events the investigator will then ask a series of questions to develop additional details and to clarify the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the incident under investigation.

During this segment of the interview the investigator would explore for any precipitators that may have provoked the incident, or for any procedural or policy violations that may have contributed to the situation. The investigator should attempt to resolve any inconsistencies or contradictions that may have surfaced from the interviews of other subjects or from the investigative information. If the subject offers an alibi for the time period in question, every effort should be made to substantiate the alibi.

In our book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 5th edition, we devote several chapters to the topic of Investigative Questions.

The third type of question that we utilize in the interview is called a behavior-provoking question (BPQ). BPQs are questions which most truthful individuals answer one way, while deceptive individuals oftentimes answer in a completely different manner.

Here is an example of a behavior-provoking question, which is referred to as the punishment question - "Jim, what do you think should happen to the person who did this (issue)?" The principle of response is that most truthful subjects usually offer appropriately strong punishment. For example, in a homicide investigation the truthful person may say, “He should spend the rest of his life in jail.” Whereas, the deceptive individual, who is thinking about himself, may say something like “That’s hard to say… I guess it depends on the circumstances.”

In Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, we discuss numerous behavior provoking questions that can be asked during the interview.

At the conclusion of this non-accusatory, non-confrontational interview the investigator will evaluate the investigative and behavioral information developed during the interview, as well as the information, facts and evidence developed during the investigation up to this point, and any subsequent investigative steps, such as verifying the subject’s alibi.

Interrogation should only occur when the investigative information indicates the subject’s probable involvement in the commission of the crime.

The Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation

The purpose of the interrogation is to learn the truth. There are several possible outcomes to a successful interrogation: the subject may be identified as innocent; it may be determined that the subject did not commit the offense under investigation but lied about some aspect of the investigation (motive, alibi, access, relationship with the victim, etc.); the investigator may determine that the subject did not commit the offense under investigation but knows who did; or, the subject may be identified as guilty.

The core of the interrogation process in the Reid Technique is to use empathy, sound reasoning and logic to elicit the truth – this is called theme development. It is important during the development of the theme that the investigator avoid any indication that the minimization of the moral or psychological blame will relieve the suspect of criminal responsibility.

It is critical that during the interrogation that the investigator does not offer any promises of leniency to the subject or threaten the subject in any way or suggest that they will face more severe consequences if they do not confess.

Once the subject decides to tell the truth and acknowledge their involvement in committing the crime, the goal is to develop the details of the crime – to develop the corroboration that we referenced earlier in this article.

The Core Principles of the Reid Technique are:

  • Always treat the subject with dignity and respect
  • Always conduct interviews and interrogations in accordance with the guidelines established by the courts
  • Do not make any promises of leniency or threats of 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
  • Exercise special cautions when questioning juveniles or individuals with mental or psychological impairments

So the next time someone describes the Reid Technique as an interrogation process, understand that they creating a false narrative. (Also see our What’s New entry, Don’t Be Fooled – They use the core elements of the Reid Technique, posted July24, 2019)

On our YouTube channel, The Reid Technique Tips, we offer over 30 video presentations related to proper interview and interrogation procedures and address numerous false confession issues.