It’s common knowledge that law enforcement has certain methods and strategies that they use in order to gain information from people whom they believe have committed a crime. For those of us that have watched any sort of TV, or for those of us who have been questioned by the police, it is a scary thing. None of us want to be in a position where we are admitting things that we don’t mean to admit due to the pressures of police interrogation. Interrogation is a very complex protocol. On the one hand, you don’t know what you’re being questioned about until the questioning starts, which is very intimidating. On the other hand, even if you say 100 times that you didn’t commit a crime, it doesn’t mean you are believed by the investigators of the crime. We cannot tell you how many times we have seen this!
There are many different ways that investigators go about investigating a crime. However, we will discuss a very common type of questioning that is widely used by law enforcement called The Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation. The Reid method was created by John E. Reid. Mr. Reid was very involved in the polygraph business in the late 1940’s. After the Federal Employee Polygraph Act of 1988, which put great restrictions on a person’s ability to use the polygraph, Reid decided to take a new approach. Reid and his colleagues developed a structured interviewing format that permitted evaluation of “a person’s truthfulness independent from a polygraph examination,” according to Reid’s website. Reid and his colleague recognized the risks of people confessing to crimes they didn’t commit with the “third-degree” technique and devised a method that was based less on coercion or intimidation and more on sound psychological principles. Whether or not the Reid technique is effective in the way it was intended probably depends a lot on who is applying the techniques. Obviously, there is room for error as well as possible abuse. We will go over these techniques so you can be better prepared if you ever find yourself in an interrogation such as this.
The Reid technique is based on of three different component; factual analysis, behavioral analysis, and interrogation. These methods are supposed to be used in a way to separate the guilty from the innocent.
Factual Analysis is supposed to eliminate improbable suspects, develop possible suspects for leads, increase confidence in identifying truthful or guilty suspects through the interview process and identify proper interrogational strategies. By analyzing things such as, opportunity, access, motivation, tenure and disgruntlement, officers can attempt to narrow down the suspect pool to include those who fit all of these requirements. This allows for less time-consuming investigation than having to interview every single possible suspect. However, this could mean that some innocent people get lumped into the group of possible suspects. This could lead officers to put unduly pressure on suspects that are in fact innocent. The Reid website states;
“Factual analysis is an inductive approach where each individual suspect is evaluated with respect to specific observations relating to the crime. Applying factual analysis, results in establishing an estimate of a particular suspect’s probable guilt or innocence based on such things as the suspect’s bio-social status, (gender, race, occupation, marital status, etc.), opportunity and access to commit the crime, their behavior before and after the crime, their motivations and propensity to commit the crime, and evaluation of physical and circumstantial evidence.”
The Reid website continues to state that this process of factual analysis not only allows officers to sift through a large group of possible suspects but also requires consistency within the independent evaluation. These two things, when aligning together are supposed to provide the officer with a certain degree of confidence in either eliminating suspects or narrowing down to a pool of potential suspects. Obviously, this method is not foolproof. It is important to see the possibility of error and to protect yourself against this.
The next stage of the Reid technique is the behavioral analysis interview. This section is a non-accusatory question and answers phase where the investigator asks standard questions as well as “behavior provoking” questions in order to provoke or elicit symptoms of truth or deception from the person being interviewed. The investigator first asks background questions in order to establish a baseline of the person’s behavior and reaction to questioning. This baseline is then observed and compared to questioning that elicits some kind of emotional response that can be used to judge truthfulness through evaluation. This stage is also where officers or investigators like to establish some kind of rapport with the suspect before the interrogation process starts. This is done in hopes of the suspect trusting the officer and offering information on good faith instead of not offering any information at all if rapport wasn’t established. This behavioral analysis phase is basically a “mapping” of your emotional response to questions that are intended to elicit behavior that might be consistent with a guilty suspect.
The last stage of the Reid technique is the interrogation. The interrogation is not to happen unless the investigator is reasonably sure that the suspect was in fact involved in the crime. The interrogation phase is very confrontational and accusatory. It is intended to elicit the truth and establish a monolog for the investigator. This monolog technique is used as a way to discourage the suspect from talking until they are ready, to tell the truth. There are nine different steps taken in the interrogation stage.
1) Positive confrontation. The investigator presents the evidence that demonstrates the suspect’s guilt in the crime.
2) Theme development. The investigator is to present a theme of the case. This theme is to be presented in a morally justifying manner in order to elicit information from the suspect.
3) Handling Denials. This states that when the suspect asks for permission to speak at this stage the officer should discourage the suspect from speaking unless it is, to tell the truth. The website states that “innocent suspects are less likely to ask for permission and more likely to promptly and unequivocally deny the accusations.”
4) Overcoming Objections. When denying the accusations seem to fail, guilty suspects will try to supplement his denial with statements of truth. For example, “I would never to that because I love my wife.” Investigators are told not to argue with suspects but to try and put those statements of truth into the theme in order to elicit at truthful confession.
5) Procurement and retention of suspect’s attention. In this stage, it is up to the investigator to focus the suspect’s attention on the theme of the crime and not the punishment of the crime. The punishment is likely to make the suspect scared and therefore should only focus on the reasons for doing it, almost as a justification for the suspect’s actions.
6) Handling the suspect’s passive moods. In this stage, the officer is encouraged to intensify the theme and the justification. Investigators should display understanding and sympathy and encourage the suspect, to tell the truth. This could also be where some investigators will state things such as “If you help me, I can help you.”
7) Presenting an alternative question. The Reid website states that the investigator should present two choices, assuming the suspect is guilty. One choice should go along with the theme of the crime and further leads the suspect to a better justification of the crime. For example, “Did you plan this out, or did it just happen on the spur of the moment?”
8) Having the suspect orally relate various details of the offense. Once the suspect admits to one of the alternative scenarios, and thus admitting guilt, the investigator should immediately make a statement acknowledging the admission of guilt. The investigator then must attempt to obtain a brief oral review of the offense before trying to elicit more details.
9) Converting and oral confession to a written confession. The investigator must convert this confession into writing or a recorded statement. During this time the investigator will use the suspect’s language, avoid leading questions and repeat Miranda when necessary.
There are various critiques to the Reid method. One is the reliability of the police to discern truthful statements from deceptive statements. Police could misinterpret truthful statements as deception and therefore be misclassifying innocent people as guilty. Coercion is also a big critique of these types of interrogation techniques. The whole idea behind behavior analysis and interrogation can be construed as psychological manipulation. There are various social studies that are concerned about the ability to discern truth from lies. Various studies show “that people are poor at making accurate judgments of truth and deception in general, that the behavior cues police rely on in particular are not diagnostic of deception, and that investigators cannot distinguish truthful from false denials of guilt at rates significantly greater than chance, but instead routinely make confidently held yet erroneous judgments (Leo 2013, 203).” (This case and others can be found in the link below).
The Reid method is just one of the many different techniques that law enforcement officers can use during the course of an investigation. It comes down to an imbalance of power. Officers are intimidating and use this power to their advantage. People don’t understand the process of interrogations and always think they can talk themselves out of a situation if they just try to explain. This kind of thinking, however, is likely to hurt rather than help. The best thing to do in any kind of police questioning is to not talk to them. You are protected by the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. This right should always be used when being interrogated or questioned by law enforcement. Talk to your attorney prior to questioning or bring an attorney with you if you must be questioned by the police. It is not in law enforcement’s best interest if you do not speak to them, however, it is in your best interest not to do their job for them.
For more information contact an attorney. The websites below have the Reid method described in greater detail.
For more information click the links below.
By Shannon Lynch