Fact: false criminal confessions exist. In the Interviewing column from the March–April 2017 issue of LP Magazine, David E. Zulawski, CFI, CFE, and Shane G. Sturman, CFI, CPP, of Wicklander-Zulawski (WZ) note that a variety of factors must be considered when attempting to determine why an innocent person may have confessed to a crime. Age, experience level, mental capacity, and the context of the interview could all contribute to a false confession–but so could the interrogation techniques used.
The Reid technique is a nine-step interrogation process in which an interrogator takes a confrontational, accusatory approach when dealing with a suspect. Some interrogators like this approach because of its directness and heavy-handedness. However, WZ’s training and consulting firm has always emphasized the non-confrontational interview. In addition, as of February 2017, WZ announced it will no longer be providing instruction in the Reid technique. From the Interviewing column:
WZ has been licensed to teach the Reid technique since 1984, but has not advocated its use in the private sector. The emotional nature of the interrogation makes it much less appropriate in a workplace environment for a variety of reasons, but none more important than employee relations. The change in personal dynamics from the 1970s, when managing and parenting was autocratic compared to today’s collaborative strategies, means new techniques are needed for a very different society and way of treating people.
As of February 2017, WZ no longer offers the Reid technique in our course selections. The Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation will only be discussed to highlight the potential risks it poses in obtaining a false or coerced confession or to illustrate the major advantages of using the WZ non-confrontational approach to interview and interrogation.
The column discusses the latest developments in the popular case described in Netflix’s Making a Murderer, which involved a questionable investigation and coercive interrogation. Check out “Is It Worth the Risk” to read the full column. You can also visit the Table of Contents for the March–April 2017 issue or register for a free subscription to the magazine.