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What is a police interrogation?
- An interview of someone suspected of committing an offence with the primary goal of getting a confession
- Argued to be the most important part of police investigation process (Baldwin, 1992)
- Pretty much every arrested suspect is interviewed
- Helps to get a conviction (very hard to successfully challenge a confession)
- Avoids further enquiry (saves money)
- Helps to assuage public anxiety
- Satisfies those affected
What can interrogators not do? (unless you're in Guantanamo bay apparently)
- Physically (or threaten to) harm or torture suspects
- Deprive suspects of food or sleep for prolonged periods of time
- Promise the suspect they won't be punished
- Deny them (or not inform them of) their UN rights
- Prevent them from expressing their side of the argument
- IF ANY OF THESE ARE VIOLATED, CONFESSIONS COULD BE INADMISSIBLE IN COURT
Are all interrogating techniques based in fact?
- Holmberg (2012) finds:
- The use of psucjplogical theories and research are questionable
- There is often the implicit assumption that the offender is guilty
What is the Reid technique?
- Developed by Reid (imagine that) in 1962
- 1: Direct positive confrontation (explain the evidence and why they are a witness then give them a chance to explain themselves)
- 2: Theme development (develop themes that will justify or excuse the crime, shift blame onto some other circumstances)
- 3: Stop denials (stop them from claiming they aren't guilty)
- 4: Overcome objections (use this reason that they give for them not doing the crime to get a confession later)
- 5: Get the suspect's attention (reinforce sincerity, we have all of this evidence and we're going to catch you)
- 6: Handle the suspect's passive mood (direct them towards an alternate explanation, if they cry they're probably guilty)
- 7: Present an alternate question (give two different stories of what happened, one more socially acceptable, if they change from their original one assume guilt)
- 8: Oral repetition (get them to repeat the confession in front of others in more detail)
- 9: Write it up
What are the problems with the Reid technique?
- Assumes the suspect is guilty and that the stress of not confessing will outweigh the implications of confessing
- It is coercive and leading that can generate false confessions
- Assumes detection can be easily detected
How does bias affect interview behaviour?
- Could lead to hostile treatment and poor communication skills due to contempt
- Baldwin (1993) looked at 600 British audio and video recordings of interviews
- Despite the assumption that suspects are uncooperative and difficult witnesses over 70% on average were co-operative
- Interviews also assessed (218 in total)
- 117 had no real structure or planning
- 89 assumed guilt
- 81 involved poor interview technique
- This assumption of guilt was also found by Kassin & Gudjonsson (2004)
- Moston & Engelberg (1993) also found confrontational and confusion seeking techniques used that led to denial, resistance and anger
How does confirmation bias affect the questioning of suspects?
- Through selective gathering or interpretation of evidence
- Innes (2003): police generate large amounts of information but seek sufficient info to corroborate internal representations of events, often filling in the gaps
How does presumption of guilt change interview technique?
- Interviewers exert more pressure, are more coercive and are more aggressive
- Kassin et al (2003):
- 52 students in mock interrogation
- Either led to believe the suspect is innocent or guilty
- Significantly more likely to get guilty judgments and were significantly more pressure and used more guilt presumptive questions
- Could just be pretending to be a tv cop
What light have convicted criminals shed on interviewing techniques?
- Holmberg & Christianson (2002)
- 83 Swedish convicted murderers and sex offenders completed questionnaires on police experience
- 2 types: dominant and humanitarian
- The more dominant, the more likely denials are, and vise versa
What is question overload?
- The human memory is limited
- If we don't take into account human fallibility such as lapses in attention, things such as hesitation to be falsely inferred as indicators of guilt
- This is especially pronounced in quick fire questions and can wear suspects down to the extent to which their memories are distorted and they incorporate suggestions from the interviewer into their mental representation of events
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