Confessions are one of the techniques used by managers and law enforcement officials to create wrongdoings in law enforcement and in corporations.
These confessions also serve as the basis for the prosecution of suspects and accused persons and for their apprehension.
The Criminal Law Revision Committee defines confession as,
“Any statement wholly or partially adverse to the person who made it, whether made to a person in authority or not and whether made in words or otherwise” (as cited by Keane, p. 363).
In other words, confessions are not beneficial to the confessor and can wholly or partially incriminate him and/or his relatives or associates involved in his misconduct. This paper will cover the topic: how to get a person to admit wrongdoing (mostly in the business or law enforcement sector), whether in a personal or professional situation. This research would cover methods involving psychological strategies, including out-of-box approaches for the acquisition of such confessions. This study will not talk about uncovering the hypocrisy of an individual, but about how to get an individual to confess his acts once his guilt has been identified. It will explore realistic and rational methods that can be used in real-life scenarios. In order to create a clear and reasonable understanding of the subject matter, including its required elements, this paper is being carried out.
There are different kinds of interrogations where confessions are often drawn up eventually. The Reid technique is one of these techniques. Inbau, Reid and Buckley (p.36) have explored and defined this approach and the authors believe in this strategy that only by obtaining confessions can criminal cases be resolved. These authors also claim (p. 36) that, when suspects are arrested when committing a crime, they will not confess to their commission until they are confronted via subtle and deceitful methods, as well as psychological maneuvering, over a prolonged period of time. In addition, interrogators have to use tactics that can often be seen as immoral to get past the criminal’s resistance (Gudjonsson, p. 11). The Reid approach involves the following components: breaking through denials and resistance; and increasing the yearning of a suspect to confess (Gudjonsson, p. 11). Under this strategy, offenders are typically questioned in an informal, non-custodial environment prior to the actual questioning process, where they are generally not told of their rights. This non-accusatory atmosphere can help the interviewer establish relationships with the suspect and lull the suspect into a false sense of security; this informal method often enables the investigator to collect data that can later be used during the actual questioning process to crack the suspect’s defenses (Perillo and Kassin, p. 1). After obtaining these objectives during the informal interrogation environment, the formal interrogation process is commenced (Gudjonsson, p. 11). The same interrogator is best used for the informal and structured phase of questioning. A polygraph test may also be carried out on the suspect during the interrogation, and if the findings are not beneficial to the suspect, those findings can be used to challenge the suspect with his lies; finally, this can effectively produce admissions from the suspects (Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson, p. 15).
In each case, the correct interrogation method is also primarily dependent on the nature of the alleged criminal as well as the type of crime for which he or she is accused; in most cases, the motivation for the crime and the initial response of the defendant to the interrogation will also influence the type of method that can be better applied to each case (Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson, p. 12). Suspects may also be divided into either emotional or non-emotional groups and the interrogator needs a lot of adjustment to their personalities as suspects. Factoring in these elements can impact on the success or failure of the interrogation and the confession of the suspect (Kassin, et.al., p. 6). In the actual interrogation setting, the emotional suspects would often manifest anxiety and guilt in relation to the crime. For these suspect, a sympathetic approach is the best approach to adapt because it is an approach which prickles their conscience and breaks through their defenses (Gudjonsson, et.al., p. 130). For the non-emotional suspects, they experience and manifest little emotion and remorse for their actions and often end up not being emotionally engaged at all in the process of questioning. For these suspects, the factual analysis approach is the most appropriate approach because it chips away on their common sense and logical thinking (Gudjonsson, et.al., p. 130). These two approaches can however be used with both the emotional and non-emotional suspects, as well as other types of suspects making necessary changes where applicable.
A necessary first step in the interrogation process involves direct positive confrontation. In this first step, the suspect is often told that he has committed a crime. To support this accusation, the interrogator specifies the results of inquiries by the police which have led them to such a conclusion (Gudjonsson, p. 12). Even in instances when the police have no credible evidence against the suspect, the interrogator usually does not give any such indication; the police would instead pretend that there is evidence against the suspect. After this confrontation, a brief break ensues, and at this point, the suspect’s behavior and reactions are closely monitored and observed (Gudjonsson, p. 12). Another confrontation about the accusations follows. Unreceptive reactions to the charges are often evaluated as evidence of deception, and this would prompt the police interrogator to persist in the interrogation process, this time, seeking to highlight to the suspect, the benefits of owning up to the crime (Gudjonsson, p. 12). There is no apparent promise of leniency in this case because this may negate the legal validity of the confession. At this point in the interrogation process, the focus may be on the suspect’s better and redeeming qualities. This may draw him out and get him to explain his side of the story, why he did the crime; in the process, it is important to keep the suspect talking, to express an understanding of his character and the circumstances which may have led to the commission of the crime (Gudjonsson, et.al., p. 135). Moreover, at this point, it is important to establish the extent of the suspect’s participation in the crime. In some instances, it may be necessary to exaggerate his participation to the crime in order to get the suspect to react (Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson, p. 14). After this point is reached, the next step in the interrogation process may be started. This step is considered the theme development stage (Kassin, et.al., p. 7).
In the theme development stage, the importance of displaying a sympathetic demeanor on the part of the investigator is crucial in gaining the suspect’s trust. At this stage, the police interrogator would establish ‘themes’ and go over these with the suspect; these themes are meant to reduce the moral impact of the crime or create a chance for the suspect to accept the face-saving and moral excuses for the crime (Feld, p. 219). As a result, the suspect can then admit the physical act of the crime, at the same time, reducing its moral implications. Inbau, et.al., (p. 9) discuss that theme development is most efficient when it involves emotional suspects; these suspects feel the most anxiety and remorse about the crime. Creating a chance for them to reduce their guilt by giving them moral excuses can induce them to confess about their crime (Inbau, et.al., p. 231). In effect, these themes are meant to strengthen the suspect’s rationalizations about his acts and his crime (Inbau, et.al., p. 232). These themes however have to be established in ways which do not endanger the legal validity of the confession. The inducements must therefore be very subtle, in order to prevent any conceptions of leniency.
For emotional suspects, in considering the type of them to be used by police investigators, the suspect’s personality must be evaluated first (Gudjonsson, et.al., p. 1037). One of the themes which can be considered for these types of suspects would be to tell the suspect that anyone who would find themselves in his situation would have acted the same. These declarations help normalize the act of the suspect; and along with the apparent sympathy from the investigator, the suspect can reach his comfort level, thereby making it easier to gain a confession (Gudjonsson, et.al., p. 1037). Inbau, Reid, and Buckley (p. 98) considered theme development beyond the ethical and legal limits as these authors recommended that in sexual offense cases, it may be advantageous to express to the suspect that the investigator himself has attempted to indulge in the similar crime. This may actually be tantamount to an investigator being persuaded to make a false confession as a means of tricking the suspect into confessing (Gudjonsson, p. 12). For which reason, investigators often do not want these interrogation sessions to be recorded. In order to make the above scenario more legally acceptable, it may be more appropriate for the investigator to narrate that he has a friend who has been involved in the same kind of crime in which the suspect is involved (Inbau, et.al., p. 243). This would reduce false confessions on the part of the investigator, thereby preventing any legal issues with the confession in court.
Another theme which can be used in the interrogation process would be to make efforts in reducing the suspect’s feelings of remorse for the offense by downplaying its moral implications (Gudjonsson, p. 503). This can be gained by having the investigator express that other people have already committed other acts worse than that committed by the suspect. This would help decrease the embarrassment of the suspect and encourage him to talk more about the incident. Inbau, et.al., (p. 245) point out that this theme is very effective when suspects are interrogated about sexually related offenses; however, this theme can also apply to other kinds of crimes.
Another theme which can be applied by the interrogator is to suggest to the suspect a morally acceptable rationale for the crime (Gudjonsson and MacKeith, p. 35). This theme would include clever strategies like telling the suspected criminal that he may have just committed a crime because at that time, he was drunk or was high on drugs. Another strategy, in some kinds of crimes, is to propose to the suspect that he did not mean any harm by the offense and that the crime was caused by an accident (Gudjonsson and MacKeith, p. 36). This is meant to relax the suspect towards self-incrimination, which can later lead him to a more detailed confession of the crime. By establishing more moral excuses for the suspect to use, the possibility of gaining confessions is increased.
Condemnation of others as a tool for sympathizing with a suspect is another theme which can be considered by investigators. This theme makes it easy for the suspect to own up to a crime if some of the responsibility for the crime is shifted to some other person or to an accomplice (Gudjonsson and MacKeith, p. 36). This strategy can be utilized by the interrogator in order to take advantage of the suspect’s readiness to attribute blame to some other individual. This theme can be used in sex crimes where children and women are victimized (Inbau, et.al.). Utilizing praise and flattery as a tool of manipulation of the suspect can also be used as a theme for interrogators. Many people like to gain the approval of other people and praising or flattering the, can build rapport with the suspect (Garrett, p. 55). This strategy can be particularly effective among uneducated individuals who often depend on the approval of other people.
In a study by O’Connor and Carlson (p. 70), the authors believed that sex offenders will likely confess to the police investigator with whom they establish trust and understanding. Such trust is basically founded on the trustworthiness of the interrogator and the kind of person the interrogator appears to be. This bond often occurs between the offender and the interrogator who usually understands the psychology of the sex offender. These offenders usually use a dysfunctional rationalization process to excuse their crimes, and to make their needs seem more significant, and in the process, they often downplay the seriousness of their offense (O’Connor and Carlson, p. 70). There is no actual standard for interviewing suspected sex offenders. Experts indicate that the interrogation strategy must be based on the training of the interrogator and experience with dysfunctional thinking and sexual addiction. Investigators establish their credibility with the offender as soon as these investigators manifest an understanding of their deviance in a non-judgmental way – one which expresses sympathy for their situation. Based on O’Connor’s and Carlson’s (p. 70) research, the most common excuse given by sex offenders in confessing their crimes is their association with the interrogator who showed them respect and understanding. They also note that the nonthreatening attitude that the interrogator showed them made them more inclined to confess their crime. The ease of conversation they experienced with the interrogator, as well as the perception that the interrogator showed them helped to easily build their trust upon the interrogator.
Another theme which can be applied by interrogators in the hope of gaining confessions is to highlight the fact that the involvement of suspects in the crime may have been exaggerated (Leo, p. 266). In this case, the interrogator can lead the suspect to believe that the victim has actually embroidered his participation in the crime. Highlighting the possibility of exaggeration can make suspects more willing to admit their crime atleast partially; from this partial admission, a case against the suspect can be built, and eventually, a possible confession can be gained (Leo, p. 266).
Making the suspected criminal believe that it is not in his favor to persistently carry out criminal activities is also another theme which can be considered by interrogators in the hope of gaining confessions (Kassin, et.al., p. 381). This theme is very much applicable among first time offenders and juvenile delinquents. The interrogator would highlight the fact that it is best for them to confess to the crime in order to avoid even more trouble in the future. In effect, the suspect is told that in owning up to the crime, the latter can still learn, reform his life, and avoid more serious legal issues in the future (Gudjonsson, p. 13).
Among non-emotional suspects, other themes may be used. First, the interrogator can try to trap the suspect telling some lies (Inbau, et.al., p. 279). Once suspects are caught lying, the latter would be psychologically dominated and from then on would have to make a serious effort to convince the investigator that what he is telling is actually the truth. In applying this theme however, the investigator must always remember that based on some circumstances, suspects may lie about some minor aspects of the crime without actually being guilty of the entire offense (Inbau, et.al., p. 281). In effect, suspects and innocent individuals may actually lie about some aspects of the offense, including giving false alibis because they do not want to reveal where they really were at the time of the crime.
Another theme which can be applied on these non-emotional suspects is to try to get these suspects to associate themselves with the offense (Kassin and Kiechel, p. 125). This strategy includes trying to convince the suspect to agree that he was in the vicinity of the crime scene or that he had some incidental involvement in the offense. In order for this theme to be effective, it must be done at the start of the interrogation so that the suspect would not actually realize the actual implications of his admissions (Kassin and Kiechel, p. 125).
It may also be helpful to suggest that there may have been a non-criminal motive for the act. In this case, the investigator would highlight the crime may have been an accident and may have been carried out in self-defense (Kassin and Gudjonsson, p. 36). This may help the suspect to accept the physical act of the crime, while reducing its motive or intent. Inbau, et.al., (p. 281) further discussed that investigators must acknowledge the fact that, unlike other themes, suggesting a non-criminal motive for a crime directly implies that if indeed the act was an accident, the suspect may not be legally liable for the consequences of such offense. This is a very favorable situation for the suspect who may be very eager to relieve himself of the consequences of the crime (Kassin and Gudjonsson, p. 36). However, a more critical issue to consider is whether an innocent individual would accept liability for a crime that he did not commit. Without a full confession, this is an issue which has to be settled by a jury based on the background and on the cognitive understanding of the suspect. It is crucial to note however that an innocent individual functioning within normal parameters would not actually accept blame for something he is not guilty of (Kassin and Gudjonsson, p. 37). Moreover, since this investigation strategy is an initial step to the bigger act of eventually gaining the truth, this strategy would not actually cause an innocent individual to give false testimony about his apparent involvement in the offense (Inbau, et.al., p. 286).
Convincing the suspect that there is actually no point in denying his involvement in the case may also help to draw him out and into a confession. In this theme, the investigator would highlight to the suspect that most of the evidence gathered points to him as the culprit and that it is useless to continue denying his involvement in the case (Gudjonsson, p. 13). This theme would be effective based on the capability of the investigator to convince the suspect that there is enough evidence to convict him, even if he does not confess. The investigator will express that he is just concerned about the suspect and about his side of the story not being heard, and to note if there were possibly any mitigating elements to the crime which can be used in his favor (Buckley, p. 190).
Playing one suspect against the other is also a favored theme in interrogating non-emotional suspects and in getting them to confess (Gudjonsson, et.al., p. 130). In instances where there are two or more suspects to the commission of a crime, each one would naturally be concerned about what the other would be saying. There is a mutual distrust in this case, and a fear that the other might point to him as the culprit of the crime. This mutual distrust and their fears can actually be used to play one against the other (Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson, p. 21). The strategy is to inform one that his fellow suspect has confessed and that there was no longer any point to his repeated denial of his involvement in the crime. In the process, not wanting to take full blame for the commission of the crime, the suspect may confess to his actual involvement in the case, also possibly implicating the involvement of the other suspect/s (Gudjonsson, p. 13).
The third step in the interrogation process is on the handling of denials. Many offenders are often wary of giving confessions even after the direct confrontations; moreover, their denials have to be handled with care and expertise (Gudjonsson, p. 13). These confessions may not be easily gained; in fact it is very rare for a guilty party, even when presented with overwhelming evidence against him, would actually throw up his arms in guilt. For the most part, most suspects, guilty or not, will primarily deny involvement in the case being charged against them (Inbau, et.al., p. 303). Persistent denials are unfavorable because it would give the suspects a psychological superiority. The interrogator must put a stop to these persistent denials. These persistent denials must be interrupted by the interrogator and the latter must continually remind the suspect to listen to what he is saying. Inbau, et.al., (p. 131) point out that there are distinct qualitative differences between innocents denying involvement and guilty suspects in their repeated denial of a crime. These differences can be seen in terms of verbal and non-verbal signs. For one, innocent suspects and their denials are usually forceful and direct; however the denials for those who are guilty are more defensive and hesitant (Irving and Hilgendorf, p. 57). Moreover, innocent suspects usually look at the investigator in the eye and they often lean forward to make an emphatic point. Inbau, et.al., (2001) also recommend the friendly-unfriendly/good cop/bad cop technique, more commonly known as the Mutt-and-Jeff technique where two investigators work with each other – one investigator being friendly and the other being very critical. Some investigators may even play the same role at various points in the interrogation process (Irving and Hilgendorf, p. 58). This Mutt-and Jeff technique is meant to make the suspect more inclined to respond and cooperate with the sympathetic officers, helping to draw out the quiet and unemotional suspects.
After the details are handled, the investigator now has to overcome the different reasons that the suspect may give to defend his innocence (Zimbardo, p. 25). The innocent suspects usually just continue to make firm denials; for those who are guilty, they go from denying to making objections to the accusations. There are different means which can be applied in getting past these objections which are often used by the suspect as a way to gain control of the interrogations as soon as their defenses turn flimsy (Zimbardo, p. 709). When the suspect feels like his objections are being ineffectual, he usually turns quiet and withdraws altogether from the interrogation. This is the suspect’s most vulnerable point and the interrogator needs to act quickly in order to avoid losing the psychological advantage he has already gained (Gudjonsson, p. 14).
The next step in the process is gaining and retaining the attention of the suspect. When the investigator usually sees the suspect withdrawing, the interrogator would then try to reduce the barrier between himself and the suspect in the hopes of gaining the suspect’s attention. He can usually achieve this by moving closer to the suspect, leaning forward, and even touching the patient gently (Inbau, et.al., p. 301). The interrogator may even use the suspect’s name, and in the process maintain persistent eye contact with the suspect. This can make the suspect feel defeated and very depressed, and as a result, the latter will likely be more receptive and attentive to the investigator’s queries (Zimbardo, p. 25).
After gaining the suspect’s attention, the investigator would focus the suspect’s thoughts on a singular theme in relation to the commission of the crime. At this stage, the interrogator would manifest a very sympathetic attitude towards the suspect, gently encouraging him to confess to the crime (Feld, p. 219). Further attempts are also made to make the suspect even more remorseful by narrating the stress he is bringing to the victim and their families in his refusal to confess (Feld, p. 220). The investigator appeals to the suspect’s honor and goodness, playing up his weaknesses in order to get through what little resistance he has left. Some suspects often break down and cry at this phase and this is often used to further encourage the interrogator. These interrogators know that crying would help release the suspect’s tension, indicating that the latter is now ready to confess (Inbau, et.al., p. 351). They are no longer objecting to the interrogator’s plea for the truth and at this point, complete silence from the suspect now signals a readiness to confess and to consider alternatives.
After focusing the suspect’s attention to a particular theme, an alternative question is presented to the suspect with two possible choices in the crime (King and Snook p. 677). Both choices are very much incriminating, however they are presented in a way where one of the alternatives offer moral excuses to the crime and the other offers a callous perspective on the crime. This phase represents the end of theme development and offers a motivation for the suspect to confess (King and Snook, p. 677). This stage presents the most crucial stage of the Reid technique, presenting how the suspect’s defenses have been broken down in the process of interrogation. It is also a very forceful process as suspects are pressured to consider two incriminating choices where either choice is not to their favor. Moreover, it is a dangerous method to use, especially with some suspects being of less than average intelligence (King and Snook, p. 677. The concept behind the alternative choices is that there is a greater possibility for a person to make a choice after he has committed himself, even if in a very minor way, to a certain decision (Inbau, et.al., p. 353). Alternative choices help to reach such a state during the questioning process because it provides the suspect with a chance to confess by making a single admission (Inbau, et.al., p. 353). In effect, the suspected criminal is provided with a chance to explain or to be excused from the crime; and this can make a self-incriminating confession easier to reach. Timing the offer for the alternative queries is crucial to the success of the interrogation because when it is offered at the right time, it can surprise the suspect and make the confession process more viable (King and Snook, p. 678).
Inbau, et.al., (p. 364) establish that some suspects may continue with their moral excuses just to save their face, however the interrogator will not have any trouble in obtaining a more incriminating excuse for the offense by emphasizing inconsistencies in the suspect’s excuses. Most seasoned interrogators are able to get the suspects to confess about 80% of the time, of the remaining 20%, a small percentage may actually be innocent of the offense (Inbau, et.al., p. 364). There is therefore much confidence in the fact that interrogators have much skill in evaluating deceptions by using non-verbal cues; and most suspects who have shown the previously specified attitudes and deceptive behaviors during the interrogation are guilty in some way for the crime (Inbau, et.al., p. 364). Interrogators are also very confident with this technique and do not believe that there is a possibility for a false confession in the appropriate application of this technique. Investigators are also confident that the technique and its processes would induce an innocent individual to make a confession to a crime he did not commit (Inbau, et.al., p. 313).
After offering the suspect the alternative choices and having him make the actual choice in the previous stage, a full blown confession now follows, with the suspect establishing details about the circumstances and motives for the crime (King and Snook, p. 678). It is important in this stage for the investigator to be alone with the suspect because the presence of other individuals in the room might discourage the suspect’s openness about the crime. After the confession is gained, the investigator must ask another officer to witness the confession; this is often applied if the suspect refuses to sign a written account of the crime (Gudjonsson, p. 13).
The last step is to convert an oral confession into a written confession. This would make it possible for the suspect to sign the confession in order to ensure the legality of the confession. Moreover, since many suspects often retract their confessions, it is considered advisable to convert oral confessions into the written statements as soon as possible (Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson, p. 14). This would make it difficult for the suspect to retract his statements. The above process portrays a definite and a popular method of gaining a suspect’s confession. For the most part, it has been very successful in gaining suspect’s confession.
The process of rationalization has been mentioned earlier and this process offers a reliable explanation for the suspect’s offense which can portray the suspects in a more favorable light. Most individuals go through this process of rationalization in their activities and even their faults – major of minor (Napier and Adams, p. 11). The seasoned investigators understand this as a normal part of one’s psychology and as such express their sympathy to the suspect by telling them that they understand why they did the crime and what they were going through which finally led them to committing the crime. A false sense of security can be created for the suspect, as he feels he is being portrayed as a person who is basically ‘good’ and who was just embroiled in an unpleasant situation (Napier and Adams, p. 11). As a result, a confession can be easily drawn out. The persuasive process of rationalization impacts on the psychological need of the suspect to justify his behavior (Firstman and Salpeter, p. 34). It is a process which helps the interrogators gets into the mind of the suspect, letting them know why they committed the crime and in effect letting them know that their feelings and actions are very much understood by the investigator (Napier and Adams, p. 12). Projecting the blame to other people is also a useful way of getting other people to confess about a crime. Blaming other people for one’s actions can help shift the suspect’s attitudes, making him feel more justified in his actions.
The process of minimizing the crime assists suspects in reducing their satisfaction about the crime, their role in the crime, and the seriousness of the crime (Napier and Adams, p. 12). Using terms like ‘mistake’ or ‘accident’ can reduce the enormity of the crime and open the suspect’s inclination to confess. By using clever language, it is possible to reduce the effect of an offense in the suspect’s perceptions (Napier and Adams, p. 12). The harsh and direct words like ‘rape’ or ‘murder’ usually make the suspects ashamed of their actions, making them even less inclined to confess. The interrogators must therefore eliminate the suspect’s wariness about confessing by downplaying the implications of the crime (Findley and Scott, p. 291). Minimizing the crime also provides motivation for the suspect to confess, making them think that their crime is not that serious and they may not get a harsh penalty for it.
Interrogators must also establish reasons for the suspects to confess after using the techniques of rationalization and minimization (Findley and Scott, p. 292). This would also include having to give reasons for the suspects to confess their crimes. Along with rationalization, projection, and minimization, the use of themes can provide adequate reasons for the suspect to confess (Simon, p. 38). Interrogators can establish various reasons for the suspects to confess by using the information they gained from the suspect during the initial interview process. This initial interview process, as mentioned previously, is the ‘getting to know you’ stage and establishes the suspect’s motivations and the current pressure he is encountering in his life (Napier and Adams, p. 13). These details can later be used to draw the person out and get him to confess.
After interrogators have established the essential and effective words which they can use during the interrogation, they must also ensure that their delivery matches the empathetic technique (Schulhofer, p. 865). The magic words are often not sufficient to gain a confession because if the wrong technique is used then these words may lose their efficacy. Interrogators must avoid the aggressive and high pressure approaches in questioning suspects because their presentation of the case and their use of the magic words may sound false (Napier and Adams, p. 13). Instead, the approach of the investigators must be ‘feather-light’ – expressing sympathy and understanding for the suspect’ situation. Since sincerity is essential in this stage of the interrogation, their voice too must be of a lower speed and volume.
Rationalization, projection, and minimization and the different reasons to confess often gain a stronger momentum when dispensed with a feather touch because this approach includes investigators wanting to penetrate the suspects’ thoughts, trying to read and second-guess their thoughts (Holmes, p. 258). In order to maximize benefits from this approach, investigators must apply this method to rationalize their suspect’s psychological status before these suspects have a chance to review these issues on their own. The ability of the interrogators to show sincerity and empathy is crucial in gaining confessions (Russano, et.al., p. 481). If these investigators do not appear sincere and spontaneous to the suspect, attempts to convince the suspect to confess will not be successful. Instead, the suspect will withdraw even deeper into himself and the defenses he has put up against the investigator.
In the current age of advanced DNA techniques in crime-solving, investigators still put much stock on the use of rationalization, projection, and minimization, as well as reasons to confess as crucial tools in investigation. Interrogations are considered crucial tools in the investigative process and they consider it the best means of detecting crime and wrongdoing, as well as knowledge about the crime (Russano, et.al., p. 482). Since the techniques of rationalization, projection, and minimization have a crucial role in the interrogation of suspects, these interrogators may have to reuse them several times during the interrogation because the suspects would likely react directly to the crime as they are confronted with its details (Napier and Adams, p. 13). Thereupon, the interrogators must combine and change their techniques to establish which technique would be most applicable to the suspect.
The techniques above have also been supported by Inbau and colleagues (p. 301). Some critics however are quick to point out issues and gaps in these interrogation techniques. Improvements to these techniques have been suggested by various authors and investigators. Inbau and colleagues (p. 287) suggest first a narrative account of the confession be taken, and later a written account. The best approach would probably be a combination of these two techniques; this approach is based on the qualities of the case, as well as the capability of the suspect to establish a detailed narration of the crime (Gudjonsson, p. 17). Gudjonsson suggests the use of video or tape recordings of the confession in order to gain a detailed confession of the crime. Electronic recordings of interviews are in the best interests of the criminal justice system and it would help guarantee that everything which happens in the interrogation room is recorded and is open to the scrutiny of the general public (Borchard, p. 78). Although Inbau and his colleagues (p. 281) do not favor this approach, they acknowledge the fact that electronic recordings help provide the defense with materials to dispute their confessions; it also protects police officers against unfounded accusations. Without recordings the evaluation of the interrogation process becomes more difficult. It also protects the suspects against impropriety from police officers, and allows the courts to judge the entire interrogation process (Baldwin, p. 325).
During the interrogation process, anxiety and fear may be seen on both innocent and guilt suspects. Innocent suspects may be nervous during the interrogation process because they are worried that there is a presumption of guilt against them; they may also be worried about all the things which may happen to them while in the custody of the police; and they may also be concerned that the police may find out some previous offenses (Gudjonsson, p. 18). There is however a difference between the anxiety felt by guilty suspects and that felt by the innocent suspects and the difference is mostly seen in the duration of the anxiety. For the innocent suspects, once the interrogation passes, their anxiety also soon passes; for the guilty suspects, their anxiety often remains even when the interrogation process is ended (Irving and Mackenzie, p. 45).
Various factors may also lead to anxiety and distress among suspects during the interrogation process, regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent of the crime (Irving, p. 23). Experts discuss that during interrogations, stress is triggered by the physical environment at the police station and the interrogation room; it is also triggered by the suspect’s confinement and isolation from his family and friends; and it can also be triggered by the suspect’s surrender to authority (Irving, p. 35). All of these elements can cause fear and anxiety on the suspect and can sometimes impact on his performance during the interrogation process (Gudjonsson, p. 18).
The physical qualities of the interrogation environment can cause fear and anxiety on suspects, especially if the suspect has never been in a police station and everything about the place is very much unfamiliar to him (Kassin, p. 222). For the suspects who have been to the police station several times, they usually feel more comfortable with the set-up and the protocols in the police station. As a result, they are less wary of their environment. These suspects are also usually more aware of their rights, as compared to other individuals who have never been to the police station (Fenner, et.al., p. 83). For suspects, a familiar police environment may be less stressful for them. Being stressed, the interrogation process may adversely affect their ability to understand their situation and their accepted actions. Another physical stressor for suspects is the uncertainty that they are being faced with while being interrogated. Their lack of control over their situation also exacerbates their stress (Fenner, et.al., p. 83). These suspects mostly have limited control over their situation; they cannot move freely about the police station; they cannot go to the toilet on their own; and they cannot even get food on their own and without seeking permission (Gudjonsson, p. 18). They do not have much privacy, and even for the most mentally well-adjusted individuals, this situation can cause agitation and stress (Fenner, et.al., p. 84). Since these suspects have no control over their environment and their actions, they also forced to confront uncertainties. Such uncertainties can cause a significant amount of stress on the suspects (Gudjonsson, et.al., p. 43). In these instances of stress and anxiety, both guilty and innocent suspects may actually break down. For the benefit of innocent suspects, safeguards to their innocence must be secured by police investigators who have to piece together crucial information gathered about the suspect to corroborate their statements. Absent such corroboration, the confession cannot be valid.
During the interrogation process, anger is usually acknowledged as a natural occurrence, and it is more often than not an undesirable emotion because it prevents effective communication between the suspect and the investigator. Rapport and cooperation are more essential and useful tools during interrogation. A study by Gudjonsson (p. 18) established that there was an unfavorable relationship between anger and suspiciousness, in that, the more people were angry and suspicious, the less likely they are to succumbing to leading questions. In an assessment of British detectives, it was also established about 42% of these detectives expressed that failure by the previous interrogator to establish rapport with their suspects, often led to the suspect’s out right denial of the offense (Walkley, p. 87). However, when rapport was established with a suspect, confessions were gained. Anger expressed by the suspect is sometimes not easy to evaluate or interpret; nevertheless, anger from the innocent and the guilty subjects is expressed differently from each other (Gudjonsson, p. 18). Innocent suspects are usually genuinely angry and in some cases very much outraged of the crime they are being accused. For those who are guilty, they often pretend to be angry. However, it is often still difficult to distinguish between feigned anger in the guilty and in the innocent suspect (Gudjonsson, p. 18). Inbau, et.al., (p. 287) point out that the difference in the anger of these suspects is on the duration of the anger; innocent subjects usually experience anger for a long period of time; on the other hand, feigned anger on the part of the guilty subjects usually fizzles out as soon as they are confronted with cold facts about the case (Inbau, et.al., p. 287). On the part of the interrogators, anger and impatience usually interferes with their professionalism and sound questioning techniques. Arrogance towards the suspect is also an unfavorable quality to express. All these qualities often cause a reduction of the suspect’s cooperation during the interrogation process, thereby making him less likely to confess to any wrongdoing.
Favorable qualities which interrogators can possess in order to gain confessions are varied. Inbau, et.al. (p. 281) also discuss these desirable qualities which include good intelligence; a keen understanding of human nature; ability to get along with others; patience; persistence; good listener; effective communicator; enhanced sense of suspicion; good emotional control; good inner confidence; is comfortable with the use of various interrogation techniques. He must also be knowledgeable in the different developments in interrogation and be highly aware of the laws of interrogation. A keen understanding of the psychological concept of interrogation is also very much important (Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson, p. 953). For most investigators, a keen perception into the detection of non-verbal and deception cues is also an important tool. The process of interrogation is after all very much based on the ability to detect deception and lies; it is based on the desire to seek the truth of the suspect’s involvement in the crime. Impatience can also be an undesirable quality for the interrogator because it can often cloud his judgment about the suspect – already judging him to be guilty even before the investigation process has started (Ayling, p. 1121). Among investigators, impatience may be a favorable quality to possess because it can help drive the investigator further into the fact-finding and investigatory process; however in the process of interrogation, it can be a liability and may open the doors to violations of the suspect’s rights during interrogation.
The physical landscape of the police interrogation room and environment can have significant effects on how suspects react to police questioning. Inbau, et.al., (p. 283) discuss how the police interrogation room can be arranged in such a way as to fully maximize the likelihood of suspect confession. These techniques include isolating suspect from outside elements, making sure that there are no objects in the room which can distract the suspect’s attention (Gudjonsson and Grisso, p. 177). Sitting very close to the subject and having other officers unobtrusively view the interview behind one-way mirrors can also help assess the subject’s reactions during the questioning process. In a study of twenty one Stanford University students, researchers sought to demonstrate powerful emotional reactions of normal and healthy individuals to custodial confinement (Haney, et.al. p. 89). The students were assigned to ‘guard’ a ‘prisoner’ in a simulated prison interrogation room. The study was terminated after six days because of the severe anxiety and stress which the subject respondents experienced; these results were seen even when the subjects were actually deemed to be emotionally stable before the study was carried out. All in all, the ‘prisoners’ experienced dependency, depression, and helplessness during their confinement. They also felt that they lost their personal identity, their control, and they felt dependent and emasculated (Haney, et.al., p. 89). Observers like Irving (p. 7) highlighted the importance of the physical environment in impacting on the decision-making of suspected criminals. Elements include unfamiliar nature of the police station, the impact of confinement, and the lack of control that the subject has over his environment. Furthermore, elements like social isolation, fatigue, hunger, physical and emotional pain, as well as lack of sleep are all elements which can impact on the actions and decisions of suspects, including any statement they would eventually make (Gudjonsson, p. 21). These elements may eventually impair their judgment, cause confusion, and increase their vulnerability to coercion (Hinkle, p. 44). These individuals may then be very susceptible to making admissions which they would not have made under any other circumstances (Hinkle, p. 44).
In the work by Leo (p. 266), influence and coercive tactics in the North American interrogation rooms have been discussed and in his study, he established that of the 25 interrogation tactics which were employed, appealing to the suspect’s self-interest has been found to be the most popular method used. Confronting suspects on evidence of their guilt has also been established as a popular interrogation method (Leo, p. 266). Attempting to undermine the suspects’ confidence was also seen in about 43% of the interrogation tactics used. These investigators have also attempted to appeal to the suspect in terms of the importance of cooperation; and offering moral reasons and psychological excuses for the offense have also been seen as interrogation tactics used by police officers (Leo, p. 266). Attempts at confusing the suspect and applying the good cop/bad cop routine has not been used as much. Leo (p. 266) was also able to establish that the following techniques have been most positively linked to the success of gaining confessions: total number of interrogation tactics used; interrogation length; identification of inconsistencies in suspect’s denial of his involvement in the crime; providing moral excuses for the crime; use of praise and flattery; and appealing to the suspect’s conscience. Leo (p; 268) also identified interrogation tactics which have been considered as coercive: and suspect not allowed to invoke his Miranda rights; physical and psychological threats.
In a study by King and Snook (p. 689), the interrogators did not apply all the core elements of the nine-step Reid technique of interrogation. Instead, on the average, these interrogators only used about 34% of the technique. They did not use 8 of the 17 Reid elements, including the reconfirming of belief in guilt after denials, confronting the suspect with his guilt, and following the first confrontation with a behavioral pause (King and Snook, p. 690). Interrogators were inclined more towards the techniques of Inbau and his colleagues, including their techniques like changing the theme when the previous theme is rejected, allowing suspects to express objections, return questioning back to the initial suspects’ account of their involvement in the crime after partial guilt has been expressed (King and Snook, p. 690). This makes interrogators selective on the application of the Reid elements. This selective application of the Reid technique is usually attributed to several reasons: time constraints, too many components and recommendations, no knowledge and training in Reid technique, and officers’ personal beliefs on the efficacy of this technique and its components (King and Snook, p. 690).
King and Snook (p. 690) note however that the proportion of core elements applied was linked with the outcome of the interrogation. Those which culminated in a partial or full confession were usually those which included a greater application of the Reid technique. Moreover, interrogations which were able to gain partial or full confessions included more influence tactics and coercive methods of interrogation (King and Snook, p. 690). This brings much support to the application of the Reid technique in terms of its efficacy in gaining confessions. Other factors may also be taken into account in evaluating the efficacy of the Reid technique. Leo (p. 270) points out that there is a relationship between the amount of strategy used and the outcome of the confession; this implies that the more tactics used in the interrogation process, the greater the likelihood for a confession to be gained. Moreover, the longer the interrogation lasts, the greater the likelihood that the investigator would employ more interrogation techniques. This is akin to a fishing expedition, trying on what would work best for the interrogation process and what would finally get the suspect to confess (Leo, p. 270). Once some form of response is seen from the suspect, more effort may be seen on the part of the interrogator and in the process, more interrogation tactics may be used by the interrogator to gain a confession. All in all, the use of the Reid technique shows much promise in the interrogation room, however much caution is expressed on its application to prevent legal issues with its validity during court trials.
The discussion above specifies details on how to get a confession from a suspect who already has been deemed involved in a wrong doing. For the most part, the Reid technique has been popularly used, as well as the components established by Inbau and his colleagues. In general these techniques consider tactics which appeal to the conscience of the suspect, as well as his guilt and sense of right and wrong. Minimization and maximization techniques can also be applied, as well as the good cop/bad cop technique, and confronting the suspect with evidence of his wrongdoing or involvement in the crime. Steps can be followed to arrive at the point where the suspect would be caught in his own lie and would be driven to confess. Legal issues with the validity of some of the techniques of interrogation have been seen, especially with the use of violence, threats, false confessions, and confusion during the interrogation process. Some of these issues skate the lines between valid and invalid confessions. Nevertheless, the recommended techniques for interrogation in this paper provide acceptable and effective means to get guilty suspects to confess to their wrongdoings.
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