When I get a call from a person under arrest at a police station I ALWAYS advise them NOT to give a statement to the police. I often later find that my advice was not taken and that person gave a statement to the police that was audio/video recorded. Sometimes the reason given is that the person thought they would look guilty if they refused to give a statement, often because the person was not guilty and wanted to convince the police of their innocence or sometimes because the person thought they could out-smart the police. Whatever the reason, it makes it much more difficult to successfully defend the person and the statement is almost always used against them at trial and in the negotiation phase leading up to the trial. What you must understand is that you are PRESUMED TO BE GUILTY. In the opinion of the police officer, you ARE GUILTY. He/she is simply working to get you to confess. They are in control of the situation and are specialists in obtaining confessions. One prominent technique has been developed and taught by John E. Reid. I summarize the technique here in the hope that it will help to convince you to take my advice when under arrest to exercise your right to remain silent and decline to give a statement to the police.
SUMMARY OF THE REID TECHNIQUE OF INTERVIEWING AND INTERROGATION
In 1947 John E. Reid and Fred Inbau began to develop a process or procedure of interview and interrogation strategies to be applied to suspects of a crime which became known as “The Reid Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation”. This was developed into a training program that was first presented to outside investigators in 1974. Since then their seminar has been presented throughout the world. Currently the firm conducts in excess of 400 such programs annually.
The method is discussed in the book “Anatomy of Interrogation Themes” authored by Louis C. Senese. This is a book police forces all over the continent use, including our own York Regional Police. I will provide a basic outline of primarily quotes from the book to illustrate to you that police are trained professionals in this area – you are not.
The process is broken down into 2 parts, the first being the “Reid Behavior Analysis Interview (BAI) followed by the “Reid 9 Steps of Interrogation”.
THE REID BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS INTERVIEW
The BAI is a structured set of “behavior-provoking questions”. “Each of these specific questions has a fundamental principle that discriminates between truthful and deceptive responses. During the interview process an effort is made to establish rapport with the suspect, as well as a behavioral baseline. Engaging in casual conversation and asking non-threatening questions about the suspect’s name, address, place of employment, job responsibilities, etc. can oftentimes establish this rapport and behavioral baseline.” During this interview the officer will be looking for verbal and non-verbal cues and applying his or her own opinion of how an innocent and a guilty person will respond both verbally and by body language. “The truthfulness of the subject’s verbal responses to the BAI questions will be evaluated in conjunction with the accompanying non-verbal behavior as well as the case fats and any evidence before rendering an opinion of truth or deception.”
This leads to:
THE REID NINE STEPS OF INTERROGATION
“Ideally the interrogation is conducted in a non-supportive (for the suspect) environment. The room should be free of distractions, preferably containing a desk and two chairs. The interrogator should not use the desk as a barrier, but should position the two chairs on the same side of the desk.” Often police will leave you locked alone in this room, without distraction, for a very long time, to develop boredom, anxiety, frustration, a desire to leave and to begin a psychological breakdown. You will be constantly monitored for utterances and body language and audio/video recorded.
STEP 1: THE POSITIVE CONFRONTATION – By accusing the suspect at the beginning of the interrogation, the interrogator establishes an atmosphere of confidence and is also able to observe and evaluate the suspect’s reaction to the accusation. The interrogator enters the room while holding a case evidence file, stands approximately 4 or 5 feet directly in front of the suspect and unequivocally accuses the suspect of committing the crime. While standing in front of the suspect, the interrogator touches the case evidence file” a prop “and begins with an innuendo of evidence.” This may be completely false and composed of lies. ”This statement is immediately followed with a direct accusation. The interrogator, still standing in front of the suspect pauses for 3 or 4 second to observe the suspect’s reaction to the accusation. The interrogator, still standing in front of the suspect begins his transition statement leading into Step 2. The interrogator sits down, places the case evidence to the side, leans forward and begins to develop his themes.
STEP 2: THEME DEVELOPMENT – “As soon as the interrogator sits down in front of the suspect following the positive confrontation, he begins presenting reasons and excuses that will serve to psychologically (not legally) justify the suspect’s behavior. Additionally the interrogator minimizes the moral seriousness of the suspect’s criminal behavior. Blame is shifted from the suspect to some other person or a set of circumstances that prompted him to commit the crime. Once the interrogator present the reason that the suspect relates to, the interrogator might observe interest on the part of the suspect. This interest will generally result in eye contact, a nodding of the head, physical barriers opening, or no further denials.”
STEP 3: DENIALS – “Most suspects will offer a denial following the positive confrontation. Once the initial denial has been verbalized, the goal of the interrogator should be to attempt to discourage all subsequent denials during the theme development stage. The more the suspect denies his involvement, the more difficult it become for him to admit that he committed a crime. Therefore the interrogator should discourage the verbalization of the denials by interrupting the suspect with a command statement and referring to the suspect by name. As these statements are being made the interrogator can turn his head away and hold up his hand to suggest to the suspect that he should refrain from continuing his verbal statement.”
STEP 4: OBJECTIONS – “If the interrogator is successful in discouraging the suspect form verbalizing denials, the next step oftentimes involves an effort on the suspect’s part to regain the offensive – to do this they may offer an objection. An objection is a statement proposed by the suspect that is an excuse or reason why the accusation against them is false. Suspects view such statements as a way to establish their innocence. Generally speaking only the deceptive individuals voice objections. When presented with an objection from the suspect the interrogator should use the objection as the very reason why the suspect should confess.”
STEP 5: PROCUREMENT AND RETENTION OF SUSPECT’S ATTENTION: – “Generally, at this step, the suspect is mentally withdrawing from the interrogation process by ignoring the interrogator’s theme and focusing his thoughts on the various consequences of his crime. At this point the suspect is content to allow the interrogator to continue to talk. It is very important for the interrogator to gradually move physically closer to the suspect. The effect of the closer proxemics is to elevate the interrogator’s credibility and to regain the suspect’s attention onto what the interrogator is doing and saying.”
STEP 6: HANDLING THE SUSPECT’S PASSIVE MOOD – “At this stage the suspect is essentially psychologically resigned to tell the truth and generally recognizes that ineffectiveness of his previous attempts to convince the interrogator that he did not commit the crime. The suspect may exhibit signs of this psychological resignation, such as moving into a head and body slump, taking deep breaths, beginning to nod the head in an affirmative manner as the interrogator describes how he thinks the suspect committed the crime and possibly tearing up. In almost all instances the suspect’s eye contact will drop to the floor.”
STEP 7: PRESENTING THE ALTERNATIVE QUESTION – “The alternative question is one in which the suspect is offered two incriminating choices concerning some aspect of committing the crime. Accepting either choice represents the first admission of guilt. The goal of using an alternative question is to make it as easy as possible for the suspect to begin telling the truth about his commission of the crime. In formulating the alternative question, one side should describe and understandable reason for committing the crime and the other side should offer a repulsive, inexcusable reason for committing the crime. Following the alternative question a supporting statement is presented to the suspect, which encourages him to select one of the offered choices. The supporting statement is part of the presentation of an alternative question. Either choice in the alternative question represents the initial admission of guilt. This admission of guilt needs to be developed into a corroborated confession.”
STEP 8: HAVING THE SUSPECT ORALLY RELATE THE VARIOUS DETAILS OF THE OFFENSE – “The purpose of this step is to commit the suspect to the crime following his acceptance of the alternative question. This is accomplished by immediately presenting a statement of reinforcement following the suspect’s acceptance of the alternative question. The statement of reinforcement validates the suspect’s perception of the interrogator as being empathetic and nonjudgmental. It also becomes more difficult for the suspect to recant his initial admission. Following this statement of support, the suspect is then asked a series of short and brief questions regarding elements of the crime. These questions should be phrased in a way that they require brief answers. The purpose of these questions is to commit the suspect to the crime.”
STEP 9: ELEMENTS OF ORAL AND WRITTEN STATEMENTS – “The focus of this step is to reduce the verbal admission to a written statement or an audio/video recording.” In practice today, the entire BAI and 9 steps of interrogation should and are audio/video recorded from the beginning.
After reading this, do you still think you can outsmart this pseudo-scientific process designed to trick you into confessing? You can’t. The police hold all the cards and you hold none. The police have everything to gain and nothing to lose. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain. It’s a fool’s game. Don’t play it. The best you can do is hold out long enough with your silence until they give up.