Police interrogation techniques have long been the focus of the national media and the microscope of whistle-blowers. This started back in the early 1900s when police were still using techniques known as the "third-degree," meaning that police were torturing suspects looking for information. Of course, people would say anything just to get the torture to stop, leading to a significant amount of misinformation and false confessions.
As police interrogation techniques changed, detectives started to feel the pressure from the brass and the public to close cases quickly. This led to detectives trying to elicit confessions from anybody just to close the case. This led to more false convictions, the most notable case being the Central Park Five. As the political pressure ramped up, the United States knew that it was time to change the way they were interrogating suspects.
Pressure to Reinvent Interrogation Techniques
In 2009, the world began to learn about the torture techniques that were being used by the United States government in locations like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. This led to President Obama setting up the HIG program to research more effective ways to interrogate suspects. The program has given millions of dollars to researchers and police departments to try and find the most effective questioning techniques. This research has turned up some interesting information that has reinvented the way that police departments question suspects.
The Technique of Non-Coercion
Interestingly enough, people actually respond better to non-domineering, non-threatening questioning techniques. The director of the HIG program, Frazier Thompson, has said that the research demonstrated the detectives and interrogators who develop a positive rapport with their clients are going to elicit the most important, credible, and factual information. Furthermore, they will get to the root of the problem quicker than the previous techniques that were rooted in brute force, torture, and other coercive mechanisms.
A Change in Goal
Older interrogation techniques existed purely to close a case. The goal was the elicit a confession through any possible means and if this meant false confessions helped to close cases, so be it. Now, the goal is factual information. Interrogators will try to get as much information from the suspect as possible. The idea behind this mechanism is that the more factual information the better. This allows investigators to check this information against other verified sources and gives them numerous pieces to build a case. Many people who otherwise would become defensive turn on the faucet and spill out tons of information, thinking they have the upper hand. It's almost good cop, good cop. Before they know it, they've been arrested.
People can get into significant trouble just by talking, even if the detective is the friendliest person in the department. That's why everyone who is facing a criminal investigation should contact an experienced legal professional for assistance before speaking with law enforcement.