In other news, scientist finds that the sun is really, really, hot and sports commentator opines that in order to win you have to score more than the opponent. Honestly, I wish the headline of this post, which is a version of the headline of this news story, was an Onion article. It’s not. Also, this is from Canada, so your mileage may vary.
The Reid method, for those who don’t know, is a classic police
interrogation interview technique which is used to wrangle and coerce confessions from suspects. A simple Google search reveals much about the Reid technique, which you should peruse at your own leisure, preferably after you’re done reading this post. But since I know you’re lazy, here’s a link to the technique’s “Nine Steps“. You can see how coercive and insidious they are.
The Reid technique, despite its flaws and criticism about its tendency to produce false confessions, has been the standard method of conducting interviews across North America for near 20 years now. It’s routinely used – and defended – by law enforcement organizations. Courts have upheld the use of these coercive tactics time and again.
So leave it to a Canadian judge to unequivocally declare that this technique is improper and dangerous. In Regina v. Chapple [PDF], the Honorable M.C. Dinkle. The judge does a wonderful job of outlining the tactics employed by the police officers in this case:
Dinkel said Calgary police subjected Christa Lynn Chapple to an eight-hour interview and interrogation that “had all the appearances of a desperate investigative team that was bent on extracting a confession at any cost.”
Even though the accused asserted at least 24 times that she wanted to remain silent, Detective Karla Malsam-Dudar disregarded that right, continuing to prolong the interview with lengthy monologues, constant interruptions and persistent questioning.
The accused’s free will was overborne to the point where she told police what they wanted to hear, the judge concluded.
But more notable than the specific facts of this case was the overall condemnation of the technique itself, which the judge called “a guilt presumptive technique” designed to “extract confessions from the accused”. He further excoriates:
Innocence is not an option with the Reid Technique. Those who defend the Reid Technique may suggest that the problem lies with the interrogators who misuse the technique and not the technique itself. They may also say that the technique is intended to be used only in circumstances where the police are sure of an accused’s guilt. These factors are of little solace to me and of no assistance to those innocent individuals who have given false confessions over the years at the hands of Reid Technique interrogators.
The judge notes, with some disappointment, that even years after other judges first began to question the use of this technique, it is still widely in service today. False confessions were recorded in approximately 25% of the exonerations cataloged by the Innocence Project. The dangers of using such a coercive technique should be obvious to those whose stated goal is the pursuit of truth and justice, yet more often than not, it is used to achieve precisely the opposite result and serves as nothing more than confirmation of their bias and tunnel-vision. The goal isn’t the truth, it’s an arrest, a confession and a conviction, truth be damned.
H/T: Lisa Steele for the pointer and The Trial Warrior for providing a link to the opinion.