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Chapter 3

PSYC 3020 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: A Confession, Lindbergh Kidnapping, Offender Profiling

Course Code
PSYC 3020
Dan Yarmey

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Chapter 3: The Psychology of Police Investigations
A process whereby the police interview a suspect for the purpose of gathering evidence
and obtaining a confession
Confession evidence is viewed as “a prosecutor’s most potent weapon”
In North America, a confession usually needs to be backed up by some sort of evidence
Being interrogated by the police for the sole purpose of obtaining a confession can be
highly coercive and intimidating (gives police certain power over the suspect)
Used to use inhumane, coercive methods (whipping, stun gun); now methods have been
replaced with more subtle, psychologically based interrogation techniques such as lying
about evidence, promising lenient treatment, and implying threats to loved ones
o Some officers see techniques as the necessary evil to identify guilty people
“Mr. Big Technique” – noncustodial procedure (outside interrogation room) involving
undercover officers who pose as members of a criminal organization and attempt to
lure the suspect into the gang; often suspect is made to commit minor crimes and
before he can “move up” and meet Mr. Big (head of the organization), he must confess
to a serious crime (the one under investigation)
The Reid Model of Interrogation
3 part process of interrogation used frequently in North America to exact confessions
from suspects; (a) gather evidence related to crime and to interview witnesses/victims,
(b) conduct a noncustodial interview of the suspect to assess any evidence of deception,
and (c) conduct an accusatorial interrogation of the suspect in which a 9-step procedure
is implemented to secure a confession
1. Suspect immediately confronted with their guilt
2. Psychological themes are developed allowing suspect to justify the crime (ex. telling
rapist victim deserved it)
3. Interrogator interrupts any statements of denial suspect makes
4. Interrogator overcomes the suspect’s objections to the charges to a point where the
suspect becomes quiet
5. Interrogator then ensures suspect doesn’t tune out and might move closer
6. Interrogator then exhibits empathy and urges the suspect to come clean
7. Suspect is offered face-saving explanations for the crime
8. Once the suspect accepts responsibility for the crime (typically by agreeing with one
of the face-savers), interrogator develops this admission into a full confession
9. Get the suspect to write and sign a full confession

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Minimization techniques: soft sell tactics used by police interrogators that are designed
to lull the suspect into a false sense of security
Maximization techniques: scare tactics used by police interrogators that are designed to
intimidate a suspect believed to be guilty
Use in Actual Interrogations
- Reid model is the most widely taught interrogation procedure in NA but that doesn’t
mean officers rely on it in practice
- Kassin et al (2007): self-report survey where police officers rated their use of Reid
practices often
- King & Snook (2009): assessed videos of 44 interrogations by Canadian officers and
showed that they don’t strictly adhere to the Reid methods
Potential Problems with this Model
1. Ability of officers to detect deception (see Chapter 4)
2. Investigator bias when an officer begins an interrogation already believing the
suspect is guilty (see text p 64 for Kassin 2003 study)
3. Coercive nature can mean a false confession
Interrogation Practices and the Courts
The decision to admit confession evidence into court rests on the shoulders of the trial
Judges must consider whether it was obtained voluntarily and whether the defendant
was competent when he/she provided the confession
“A confession is typically excluded if it was elicited by brute force, prolonged isolation,
deprivation of food/sleep, threats of harm/punishment, promises of immunity or
leniency, or without notifying suspect of their constitutional rights” (Kassin 1997)
R v Oickle (p 65), R v Hoilett (p 66)
An Alternative to the Reid Model
Because of potential problems that can result from coercive tactics, police agencies in
several countries have changed their methods; specifically, England and Wales’ courts
have restricted the use of many techniques in the Reid model
o Use the PEACE model (Planning/Preparation, Engage/Explain, Account, Closure,
and Evaluation
o Inquisitorial instead of accusatorial
o Don’t use “interrogation” anymore, use “investigative interviewing”
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