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 on 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. Criminal justice system regard confessions as reliable and at times just mere confessions can change the whole dynamic of a case. Reid technique is often the to 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, repeated accusation that one is guilty of the offence that they have committed, presentation of evidence that links the suspect to the crime or to the scene which may be 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), 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 into 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 as the easiest thing to do but it is this confession that led to their conviction. There are a 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 which 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” he 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 use of torture in getting information from terrorist on planned bombing or active cells that they may have in a country and their intention to bomb a country. In some aspect torture can be seen as a Reid technique. Aside from inflicting bodily harm, a witness is put in 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 hints 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 ibn 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 Chicago Police department have also hinted on discontinuation on the use of Reid technique in their investigation.
In conclusion, there is 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 into believing that the only way out for them is by confessing to having committed the crime.
Beechy, M. (2014). Miranda v. Arizona (1966): Its Impact on Interrogations.
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-interrogationsKassin, 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.
Moore, T. E., & Fitzsimmons, C. L. (2011). Justice imperiled: False confessions and the Reid technique. Crim. LQ, 57, 509.