More or Less Advanced than Mutt and Jeff? And Not Advanced Enough in Any Event?

April 4, 2017
By Hanging Out with Carl Gunn


  • There’s a technique used to train officers in interrogation known as the “Reid technique,” which one police training organization recently announced it has abandoned and which a large number of articles criticize as prone to producing false confessions.
  • Descriptions of the technique on the Wikipedia website and the website of the company which has actually trademarked the technique and trains on it suggest possible ways it might allow officers to subtly manipulate a suspect and/or twist his words.
  • You might consider using these materials to challenge confessions in either motions to suppress them or in arguing their lack of reliability to the jury.



A link to the article attached here, recently came across my desk (actually my computer) about an announcement by a company named Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates – described as “a consulting group that says it has worked with a majority of U.S. police departments” – that it was going to stop using an interrogation technique called the “Reid technique,” which the article describes as “the go-to police interrogation method for squeezing confessions out of suspects.”  What caught my eye was the reason given for halting use of the technique; it was a concern that the technique can lead to false confessions.  This piqued (a fancy word to use, I know) my interest, so I Googled “Reid technique” to see what I found, and I thought I’d share it in a post.

First, I found a description of the “technique” – both in the everyman’s source of Wikipedia, linked here, and on the website of John Reid and Associates, linked here.  John Reid and Associates is the company, founded by a former cop named John Reid, which teaches the technique and even has a trademark for it, at least according to Wikipedia.  Wikipedia describes the technique as “a three-phase process beginning with Fact Analysis, followed by the Behavior Analysis Interview (a non-accusatory interview designed to develop investigative and behavioral information), followed when appropriate by the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation,” and then lists the nine steps of interrogation.  And lest you be concerned about the reliability of Wikipedia, this description appears to match up with the description I found on the company’s website, which lists the same three phases and nine steps and also provides a detailed discussion of each step.

The second thing I found with my Google search was a rather large number of articles raising concerns about the Reid technique producing false confessions, including a significant number of cases in which convicted defendants who confessed were later exonerated by DNA evidence.  There are too many articles to all link here, and no single one of them was a summary of all the others, but they’re pretty easy to find by just Googling “Reid technique,” and there’s one Legal and Criminological Psychology article cited in the Wikipedia article.  It also wouldn’t surprise me if some of the “false confession” experts out there might have some ideas to add.

I haven’t read the materials in much depth, and haven’t thought this through fully, but there may be some things to work with here in our cases.  In its ultimate form, it might feed into using a false confession expert in the right case.  In a more basic form, you might use it in motions to suppress statements or even at trial.  You could cite to the materials in making arguments in written briefing or orally to judges, and the materials might also suggest some common sense avenues of cross examination.  To the extent an officer might admit he was trained in and/or used the technique, some of what’s in the description of the technique may suggest the possibility of twisting a suspect’s words and/or getting him to admit something that’s not really true.  To the extent the officer is hesitant to admit he was “trained” in the technique, having these materials and arguing about how they might be used in cross examination at trial might suggest a discovery motion for materials that document the officer was trained in the technique.

In any event, I thought I’d share what I found for you all to run with in whatever way you can.  There may be some stuff to work with here.