Chapter 2 – The Psychology of Police Investigations.
1. Police Interrogations.
• Definition: A process whereby the police interview a suspect for the
purpose of gathering evidence (i.e. location of the evidence) and obtaining
• Ultimate goal ▯to obtain a confession as it is viewed as “prosecutor’s most
• Police officers would literally go to great lengths to secure such evidence.
• In North America, a confession usually has to be backed up by some other
form of evidence.
• People who confess to a crime are more likely to be prosecuted and
convicted than those who do not.
• Considered to be inherently coercive and often viewed as a necessary evil
technique to obtain confessions from guilty persons.
2. Mr. Big Technique – Box 1.
• A noncustodial procedure in that it happens outside of the interrogation
• Involved undercover police officers who pose as a members of a criminal
organization and attempt to lure the suspect into the gang.
• Often suspect is made to commit some minor crimes (for which he may be
rewarded) and once committed to the organization, the suspect is
“interviewed” for a higherlevel job.
• In order to seal the deal with the ultimate boss – “Mr. Big”, suspect must
confess to a serious crime – viewed as a form of insurance for the criminal
• Prior to 2004, the technique had been used at least 350 times in Canada.
• 75% success rate and 95% conviction rate.
• Mayerthorpe RCMP murders in 2005 – James Rozko shot and killed 4
police officers. The operation involved 50 undercover officers and
ultimately led to confession from two of Rozko’s acquaintances, Dennis
Cheeseman and Shawn Hennessey.
• This technique has been approved by the Canadian courts, which seem to
view the “Mr. Big technique as a reasonable use of police trickery that
would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute”
• However, also raises some interesting ethical and legal questions. 2
3. The Reid Model of Interrogation.
• Most common 9step interrogationtraining program used to extract
confession from suspects in North America, which was based on a book
written by Inbau et al. (2004) called Criminal Interrogation and
• To effectively interrogate suspects, usually interrogations occurred in a
plainly decorated room to avoid distractions, and interrogators should have
the evidence folder in their hand when beginning the interrogation, and
make sure that the suspect is alone in the interrogation suite prior the
interrogator entering the room.
• Based on an assumption that suspect do not confess to crimes they have
committed because fear the potential consequences that await them if they
• Goal of the model: to reverse this state of affairs, by making the
consequences of confessing more desirable than the anxiety related to the
• Maximization technique – “scare tactics” used by the police interrogators
that are designed to intimidate the suspect believed to be guilty. Achieved
typically by exaggerating the seriousness of the offence and by making
false claims about evidence the police supposedly have. (Bad Cop)
• Minimization technique – “soft sell” tactics used by police interrogators
that are designed to lull the suspect into a false sense of security by the use
of sympathy, excuses and justification. (Good Cop)
• Common techniques in actual interrogations:
i) Interrogators almost always used techniques such as
isolating suspects from friends and family and trying to
establish rapport with suspects to gain their trust.
ii) Providing justifications for the crime and implying or
pretending to have evidence.
• Potential problems:
i) Ability of investigators to detect deception
ii) Biases that may result when an interrogator believes
incorrectly that the suspect is guilty
iii) Coercive nature of certain interrogation practices which
could result in false confessions
• The actual interrogation of a suspect begins only after an initial interview
has allowed the interrogator to determine whether the suspect is guilty.
• Miranda Rights does not always appear to provide protection that they are
assumed to provide because many individuals do not even understand their
rights when they are presented to them (particularly young people and
those with impaired intellectual capacity).
• Often when the police begin their interrogation, they already believe the
suspect to be guilty. And often unknowingly seek out and interpret 3
information in that situation in a way that verifies their initial belief –
• Investigative biases often led to coercive interrogations that caused
suspects to appear guiltier even when the suspect had committed no crime.
4. Interrogation Practices and the Courts.
• Questionable confessions:
ii) Whether the defendant was competent when he/she
provided the confession
• Confession resulting from overt forms of coercion will not be admitted in
5. Alternative to Reid Model.
• PEACE Model (Planning and preparation, engage and explain, account,
closure, and evaluation)
• Based on an interview method known as conversation management, which
encourages information gathering more than securing a confession.
• Abandoned the term interrogation in England and Wales, and preferred the
term investigative interviewing instead.
6. The Case of R. v. Hoilett (1999) – Box 2.
• Hoilett was arrested for sexual assault in Toronto at 11.25pm – November
• Was under the influence of alcohol and crack cocaine.
• At 1.24am on November 29, police officers came to remove his clothing
in order to be forensically examined.
• Was left naked in his cell with just a metal bed to sit on for 1.5hours.
• At 3.06am, he was given some light clothes with no underwear and shoes
that did not fit.
• Interviewer believed that the suspect was not impaired during the
interrogation, only tired even though he was aware that Hoilett consumed
alcohol and crack cocaine that evening.
• His decision to speak was influenced by how cold he was and that he
needed tissue to wipe his nose, and the officers suggested these things
could be made available to him after the interrogation.
• Trial judge recognized and openly disapproved the inhumane conduct
demonstrated by the police in this case, resulting an involuntary statement.
• However, the judge concluded that this treatment did not affect the free
will of the defendant and Hoilett was convicted on one count of sexual
7. False Confession.
• A confession that is either intentionally fabricated or is not based on actual
knowledge of the facts that forms its content.
• Research indicates that when people have been wrongfully convicted of a
crime, a false confession is often to blame.
• Retracted confession: a confession that the confessor later declares to be
false (regardless of whether it actually is).
• Disputed confession: A confession that is later disputed at trial (might
arise because of legal technicalities, or because the suspect disputes the
confession was ever made).
• Types of False Confession:
Voluntary False Confessions
o When someone voluntarily confesses to a crime he/she did
not commit without any elicitation from the police.
o May arise because of several reasons such as; a morbid
desire for notoriety, the person being unable to distinguish
fact from fantasy, the need to make up for pathological
feelings of guilt by receiving punishment, or a desire to
protect someone else from harm (which may be particularly
prevalent among juveniles).
o Charles Lindbergh’s baby son kidnapping and murder
case – kidnapped at the age of 20 months. Decomposed
body was found with a fractured skull about 2.5 months
later. It was estimated that about 200 people falsely
confessed to the kidnapping and the murder. While in the
end, only one man was convicted for the crime, a German
immigrant named Bruno Richard Hauptman.
o John Mark Karr – voluntarily confessed to the unsolved
1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey, the 6yearold American
beauty pageant queen. However, his version of details did
not match details of the case and his DNA samples also did
not match with the ones they found at the scene.
CoercedCompliant False Confessions
o Suspect confesses to a crime, even though the suspect is
fully aware that he/she did not commit it.
o Most common type of false confession.
o Caused by the use of coercive interrogation tactics on the
part of the police, such as the maximization techniques. 5
o The use of the techniques is used so the suspect can: escape
further interrogation, gain a promised benefit, or avoid a
CoercedInternalized False Confessions
o A confession that results from suggestive interrogation
techniques, whereby the confessor actually comes to believe
he/she committed the crime.
o Several vulnerability factors ar