False Confessions and the Reid Technique – Response from John E. Reid & Associates

On June 13, 2012, I posted a piece about false confessions and how they can happen.  https://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2012/06/13/false-confessions-how-can-that-happen/   I made some critical comments about the Reid Technique of interview and interrogation, suggesting that it can produce false confessions.  The Reid Technique was developed by, and is taught by, John E. Reid & Associates.  Mr. Joseph Buckley, president of John E. Reid & Associates provided a response, and I include it here, with his permission, and without editorial comment.                                           ====================================================

Hi Mr. Locke,

A colleague recently brought to my attention your blog dated June 13, 2012 on the Wrongful Convictions Blog website.  While false confessions absolutely do occur, there were a few statements in your article about the Reid Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation which are 100% erroneous, namely, the following:

Confessions obtained by the Reid Method fall into two basic categories:

  1. Compliant Confession – the suspect confesses for a reason. Investigators may have promised the suspect that they will be lenient if he confesses. On the other hand, he may have become so fatigued and upset by the interrogation process that he will do anything to end it.
  2. Internalized Confession – the suspect begins to believe that he actually committed the crime. This can happen if the person is particularly susceptible to suggestion. It can also happen if the investigator repeats the same scenario so many times that the suspect begins to feel as though he remembers it.

There has been open criticism of the Reid Method, because of it’s ability to produce  false confessions, particularly if misused by police agencies.  People who are young, developmentally disabled, or mentally ill are particularly subject to falsely confessing as a result of this method.  Regardless, it is widely used within law enforcement.

To the contrary, we teach that interrogators should not make any promises of leniency and they should not try to talk a suspect into believing that they committed the crime – these admonitions are well documented in our book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 5th edition, 2011.

We recently posted on our website a document entitled, “Clarifying Misinformation about the Reid Technique” – I have attached a copy for your review.

Clarifying misinformation about TRT

We are very concerned about false confessions caused by improper police interrogation methods and have served as an expert witness for the Innocence Project (NY) several times (as well as other attorneys), testifying against the police.  It is interesting to note that the Innocence Project used us to interrogate a person in jail whom they believe killed the victim that their client had falsely confessed to killing – we obtained a confession from the actual killer – I have attached a magazine article written about the case below.

http://nymag.com/news/crimelaw/68715/

If in the future you or any of your colleagues have any questions about the Reid Technique, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Joseph P. Buckley
President
John E. Reid and Associates

8 responses to “False Confessions and the Reid Technique – Response from John E. Reid & Associates

  1. Docile Jim Brady – Columbus OH 43209

    Thanks, Phil.

  2. I found the response from Reid informative and helpful. But there is a recurring theme which begs the issue: merely because a court has found a particular method to withstand constitutional review does not, necessarily, mean that it does not result in a false confession. Moreover, while there is a strong argument that it is the misapplication of the Method which results in an innocent person proffering a confession to a crime he did not commit, the undeniable truth is that it happens – with great regularity. While officers should not give information about a crime to an interviewee, there can be no legitimate argument that that is precisely what occurs. The cry of it is the practitioners,not the Method rings a bit hollow when the phenomenon recurs across the country. Perhaps it is time for Reid to take aggressive steps to halt the misapplication of the Method – and the sullying of its reputation – by ensuring that police who follow the training do so with strict adherence to all of its objectives. Somewhere along the way that message is being diluted.

    • Docile Jim Brady – Columbus OH 43209

      Hello Ms. Bluestine.
      Thank you for your reply. I enjoyed your good write and good points. I am unable to see what Reid can really do to halt the misapplication. What if it is an individual rogue officer ? What if it is an individual rogue precinct ?

      The rogue officers need removed from their jobs so that they may seek employment in another venue.

      In the early 1970s in Columbus OH a misguided person(s) removed an officer by ambush with a shotgun. To this day we do not know WHY, because the crime was never solved.

      In my uninformed opinion, a good way to avoid rogues is to do the best we can to hire and properly train the best candidates in the beginning. Quite a challenge.

      (Emphasis by DJB)
      “<i<Perhaps it is time for Reid to take aggressive steps to halt the misapplication of the Method – and the sullying of its reputation – by ensuring that police who follow the training do so with strict adherence to all of its objectives.

  3. Thank you, Marissa. I really did want to refrain from making editorial comment in the body of this post. I believe Mr. Buckley is being forthright in expressing Reid’s concern about false confessions. However, what’s to keep a police interrogator, who is perfectly willing to tell outright lies and use fake evidence, from using the psychological levers of the Reid Technique to extract a confession when he has made the predetermination that the suspect is guilty? There seems to be a lack of appropriate controls. The decision to switch from the “behavioral analysis interview” to “interrogation” is entirely at the discretion of the interrogator.

    • Docile Jim Brady – Columbus OH 43209

      I really did want to refrain from making editorial comment in the body of this post.

      ☺ I felt that the best part of your article was to allow Mr. Buckley have the floor and to include links so that the reader may become more informed.

      I do not see a “Blue Bloods attitude any time soon hitting the police departments presently abusing the Reid protocol.

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