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Chapter 3

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University of Guelph
PSYC 3020
Dan Yarmey

Chapter 3: The Psychology of Police Investigations POLICE INTERROGATIONS  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  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 judge  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” FALSE CONFESSIONS  A confession that is either intentionally fabricated or is not based on actual knowledge of the facts that form its content  Biggest problem with coercive techniques o Retracted confession: confession that the confessor later declares to be false o Disputed confession: a confession that is later disputed at trial (ex. legal technicalities or suspect disputes the confession was ever made)  Researchers admit that it is unknown how often false confessions are made Different Types of False Confessions  Voluntary: a false confession that is provided without any elicitation from the police; may arise from a desire for notoriety, the need to make up for feelings of guilt, a desire to protect someone else, or being unable to distinguish between fact and fantasy (ex. 20 month-old Lindbergh baby was kidnapped and murdered in 1932 and 200 people falsely confessed to committing the crime)  Coerced-Compliant: a confession that results from a desire to escape a coercive interrogation environment or gain a benefit promised by the police  Coerced-Internalized: a confession that results from suggestive interrogation techniques, whereby the confessor actually comes to believe he/she committed the crime; exposed to highly suggestive questioning Studying False Confessions in the Lab (p 71-72)  It’s obviously difficult to study if and when false confessions occur; it’s also unethical to allow research participants to be led to believe they had committed crimes  Compliance: a tendency to go along with demands made by people perceived to be in authority even though they might not agree with them  Internalization: accepting guilt for an act even though they didn’t commit it  Confabulation: the reporting of events/details that never actually occurred The Consequences of Falsely Confessing  People going to jail who don’t belong there  Recent studies have shown that jurors might be likely to convict a suspect based on confession evidence even when they know that the suspect’s confession resulted from a coercive interrogation  Consequence for the police and thus the public – wasting valuable time and resources tracking a false trail CRIMINAL PROFILING What is a Criminal Profile?  An investigative technique for identifying the m
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