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What’s the Reid Technique in police investigations?

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2023 | Criminal Defense

When the police have someone in their investigative crosshairs, they can pull out all the stops in order to try to get a confession.

One interrogation technique that has been widely taught and used over the years has increasingly been regarded with skepticism and controversy. Called the Reid Technique, the method has been widely used for decades in this country – and many experts in criminal justice say that it leads to false confessions.

Understanding the Reid Technique’s methods

The Reid Technique is a structured method of interrogation designed to elicit confessions – and it starts out with the presumption that the person being interrogated is guilty. Generally speaking, the technique involves:

  • Isolation: Suspects are often isolated from their support systems. This isolation can create a sense of vulnerability and increase the pressure on the suspect to cooperate.
  • Confrontation: The interrogator begins by confronting the suspect with the belief that they are guilty to apply pressure.
  • Minimization: Interrogators downplay the severity of the crime and suggest that the suspect’s actions were understandable or justifiable under the circumstances. This can lead people to believe that if they just confess they’ll be forgiven and sent home.
  • Threats: Conversely, interrogators may suggest that the suspect will face severe punishment unless they confess. This tactic plays on the suspect’s fears and anxieties.

Interrogators often use leading questions to steer the suspect towards a confession. They may provide details of the crime and ask the suspect to confirm or deny them. Fatigued suspects may even start to actually believe that they know more about the crime than they really do.

The psychological pressure, isolation and manipulative tactics employed during lengthy interrogations are what can lead innocent people to admit to crimes they did not commit, often because they see confession as the only way to end their ordeal. It’s particularly effective on young people and people who lack a strong understanding of their rights.

If you confessed to a crime you didn’t commit, the wisest thing you can do is seek legal guidance right away.