From the CalgaryHerald.com:
An Alberta judge has blasted a police interrogation technique used across North America because of the possibility it can lead to “overwhelmingly oppressive situations” and cause innocent people to make false or coerced confessions.
The ruling last month by Provincial Court Judge Mike Dinkel stems from a case in which a day-care operator was charged with aggravated assault after a child in her care suffered a serious head injury.
Dinkel said Calgary police subjected Christa Lynn Chapple to an eight-hour interview and interrogation that “had all the appearances of a desperate investigative team that was bent on extracting a confession at any cost.”
Even though the accused asserted at least 24 times that she wanted to remain silent, Detective Karla Malsam-Dudar disregarded that right, continuing to prolong the interview with lengthy monologues, constant interruptions and persistent questioning.
The accused’s free will was overborne to the point where she told police what they wanted to hear, the judge concluded.
Citing other court rulings that have been critical of the so-called Reid Technique of police interviewing and interrogation, the judge said, “I now add my voice to the chorus.”
“Although there is no law prohibiting the use of the Reid Technique, I find that it has the ability to extinguish the individual’s sacred legal rights to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to remain silent in the face of police questioning.
“I denounce the use of this technique in the strongest terms possible and find that its use can lead to overwhelmingly oppressive situations that can render false confessions and cause innocent people to be wrongfully imprisoned.”
The judge deemed Chapple’s confession inadmissible and dismissed the charges against her.
Joseph Buckley, president of Chicago-based John E. Reid & Associates, which developed the Reid Technique in the 1950s and trains 20,000 people worldwide each year, said Monday it’s not the technique that causes false or coerced confessions but police detectives who apply improper interrogation procedures.
Buckley said his company teaches investigators to take a neutral, non-accusatory stance at the start of an interview with the aim of developing investigative and behavioural information.
Police are taught to move on to a more aggressive interrogation only when they believe a suspect is not telling the truth, he said.
Buckley said honouring an individual’s rights, including their right to remain silent and their right to counsel, is paramount.
He agreed that an interview and interrogation that lasts eight hours is problematic and that if police are not making progress after the first three or four hours, they ought to “re-assess” the situation.
One reason police might have for prolonging an interrogation is if the suspect keeps changing his story, he said.
But if a suspect claims that he has no recollection of having committed the crime, the investigator should not attempt to persuade the suspect he is guilty, Buckley said.
Even when police get a confession, the Reid Technique teaches police to make sure they have corroborating evidence.
“We want to err on the side of caution,” he said.
Calgary police Insp. Steven Barlow said Monday the force is reviewing its practices and training in light of the judge’s ruling.
While the Reid Technique formed a significant part of interview training in the past, the department has veered away from it in recent years, favouring an approach that is less aggressive and involves building rapport with the suspect and “putting all the cards on the table,” he said.
“We’re always looking to get the factual, truthful statement,” he said.
Tim Smith, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said the association does not comment on regional court rulings and that interview techniques are “determined by individual police services who seek out their own training methodologies.”
In an article published last year in the journal Criminal Law Quarterly, Timothy Moore, a professor of psychology at York University, wrote that reforms in interrogation practices in Canada and the U.S. have been “untenably slow.”
The Alberta judge’s ruling echoes misgivings social scientists have been expressing about the Reid Technique for years, Moore said this week.
“Stripped to its bare essentials, the Reid Technique is a guilt-presumptive, confrontational, psychologically manipulative procedure whose purpose is to extract a confession,” he said.
Brent Snook, a professor of psychology at Memorial University, recently published a study that suggested Canadian police investigators are not following best practices when interviewing suspects because they don’t allow them to “talk and provide information freely.”
His research team reviewed 80 transcripts of police-suspect interviews at a Canadian police agency. They found that investigators tended to dominate the interview with accusatory and short-answer questions, which can impair their ability to get “complete and accurate” accounts, they said.