Criminal Defense

What is the “Reid Technique” in Police Interrogation?

July 30, 2023 by Seppi Esfandi in Criminal Defense  Rights  
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What is the “Reid Technique” in Police Interrogation?

In the realm of criminal investigations, the art of police interrogation plays a critical role in uncovering the truth and securing convictions. One widely recognized method of interrogation is the Reid Technique, developed by John E. Reid as an alternative to the polygraph. While the Reid Technique has been lauded for its effectiveness, it has also faced significant scrutiny and controversy. This article delves into the evolution of police interrogation techniques, provides an overview of the Reid Technique, examines its criticisms, and explores best practices in police interrogation.

The Evolution of Police Interrogation Techniques

Before diving into the specifics of the Reid Technique, it is essential to understand the historical context surrounding police interrogation. Over the years, interrogation methods have evolved from physical coercion to more psychologically nuanced approaches. Gone are the days of extreme tactics like violence or intimidation. The focus has shifted towards understanding human behavior and employing strategic approaches to elicit information from suspects.

The Reid Technique: An Overview

The Reid Technique is a comprehensive approach that encompasses three main components: factual analysis, behavior analysis interview, and the interrogation process. Each stage serves a distinct purpose in gathering information, evaluating suspect behavior, and eliciting a confession. Let’s explore each of these components in detail.

1. The Factual Analysis

The first step in the Reid Technique is conducting a factual analysis. This involves evaluating specific observations related to the crime and gathering information about each suspect. The goal is to eliminate improbable suspects, develop leads, increase confidence in identifying truthful or guilty suspects, and identify appropriate interrogational strategies. By analyzing the facts, investigators can make informed decisions about the direction of the interrogation.

2. Behavior Analysis Interview

Following the factual analysis, investigators move on to the behavior analysis interview. This step involves asking structured “behavior provoking” questions to elicit behavior symptoms of truth or deception from the person being interviewed. It is a non-accusatory process focused on gathering information and assessing the subject’s verbal and nonverbal behavior. The behavior analysis interview helps investigators gauge the credibility of the person being interviewed.

3. The Interrogation Process

If, based on the information gathered from the factual analysis and behavior analysis interview, investigators believe a suspect is guilty, the interrogation process begins. Unlike an interview, which is more conversational in nature, interrogation is an accusatory process aimed at obtaining a court-admissible confession. The Reid Technique outlines nine steps to guide investigators through this process, which we will explore in detail later in this article.

Assessing the Reid Technique: Controversies and Criticism

While the Reid Technique has been widely utilized in police interrogations, it has also faced significant controversies and criticisms. Two primary concerns surrounding the technique are manipulation and coercion, as well as the potential for false confessions, particularly from vulnerable individuals. It is crucial to examine these issues to ensure a balanced approach to interrogation.

Manipulation and Coercion

Critics argue that the Reid Technique can manipulate and coerce suspects into making false confessions. The accusatory nature of the interrogation process, coupled with psychological pressure tactics, may lead innocent individuals to admit guilt. The use of persuasive techniques, such as presenting alternative scenarios or minimizing the seriousness of the offense, can create an environment where suspects feel compelled to confess.

False Confessions and Vulnerable Suspects

Another concern surrounding the Reid Technique is the potential for false confessions, particularly from vulnerable individuals. Research has shown that certain groups, such as the mentally ill, intellectually/developmentally disabled, and juveniles, are more susceptible to manipulation and coercion during interrogation. Their limited understanding of legal rights and the fear of authority figures may lead to false admissions of guilt.

Best Practices in Police Interrogation

To ensure ethical and effective police interrogations, it is essential to follow best practices that prioritize the integrity of confessions while respecting individual rights. Here are some key areas of focus:

Preparation and Room Environment

Proper preparation is crucial before initiating an interrogation. Investigators should thoroughly review case materials, including witness statements and evidence. Additionally, creating a suitable room environment that is neutral, comfortable, and free from distractions can contribute to a more productive and ethical interrogation process.

Assessing Behavioral Symptoms

Understanding and evaluating behavioral symptoms can provide crucial insights during an interrogation. Investigators should pay close attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues, such as changes in tone, body language, or inconsistencies in statements. This assessment can help guide the direction of the interrogation and determine the credibility of the information provided.

Conducting a Behavior Analysis Interview

The behavior analysis interview serves as a valuable tool for gathering information and assessing the subject’s credibility. By asking behavior-provoking questions, investigators can elicit behavioral symptoms of truth or deception. This non-accusatory approach allows for a more objective evaluation of the subject’s responses and helps guide subsequent questioning strategies.

The Importance of Proper Interrogation Techniques

Proper interrogation techniques are crucial to ensure the integrity of confessions and respect for individual rights. Investigators should strive to strike a balance between obtaining the truth and avoiding coercion or manipulation. Building rapport, using open-ended questions, and avoiding leading or suggestive statements can contribute to a more ethical and reliable interrogation process.

Balancing Confession Integrity and Individual Rights

Achieving the delicate balance between confession integrity and individual rights is paramount in police interrogations. While the goal is to elicit the truth and secure convictions, it is equally important to safeguard the rights and dignity of the individuals being questioned. Adhering to legal guidelines, respecting the right to remain silent, and providing access to legal counsel are essential components of a fair and just interrogation process.

The Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation: A Closer Look

The Reid Technique outlines a structured approach to interrogations, consisting of nine steps. These steps provide a framework for investigators to follow during the accusatory process. Let’s examine each step in detail:

Step 1: The Positive Confrontation

The positive confrontation involves informing the suspect of the evidence against them and presenting a transition statement that clearly indicates their involvement in the crime. The goal is to elicit a reaction from the suspect and create the foundation for subsequent questioning.

Step 2: Theme Development

In this step, investigators develop a theme that places the blame on someone or something other than the suspect. The aim is to shift the focus from whether the suspect committed the crime to understanding why they may have done it. By providing justifications or reasons for the alleged crime, investigators attempt to elicit information and encourage the suspect to open up.

Step 3: Handling Denials

During this step, investigators address the suspect’s denials and objections. Lying suspects may attempt to speak their denials, while truthful suspects typically do not ask to talk. Investigators employ various tactics to challenge denials and address the suspect’s concerns or requests for evidence.

Step 4: Overcoming Objections

If a suspect objects to the allegations, interrogators must address their objections and explain the consequences of false objections. By emphasizing the benefits of cooperation and the potential negative outcomes of maintaining innocence, investigators aim to persuade the suspect to reconsider their position.

Step 5: Procurement and Retention of the Suspect’s Attention

Maintaining the suspect’s attention throughout the interrogation is crucial. Investigators use role reversal, challenging the suspect’s values and traits, addressing their fear of consequences, and highlighting the futility of continued denials to keep them engaged in the process. These techniques are designed to establish a sense of understanding and encourage the suspect to cooperate.

Step 6: Handling the Suspect’s Passive Mood

If the suspect appears passive or defeated, interrogators intensify the theme and simplify it into a couple of sentences. The goal is to reignite the suspect’s emotional involvement and encourage them to verbalize agreement with the investigator’s perspective.

Step 7: Presenting the Alternative Question

In this step, investigators present the suspect with an alternative question that justifies the alleged crime. The question offers two incriminating choices, one with a good reason and one with a bad reason, based on the investigator’s assumption of the suspect’s guilt. This technique aims to elicit further admissions or details from the suspect.

Step 8: Having the Suspect Orally Relate the Details of the Crime

If the suspect admits guilt during the alternative question phase, investigators proceed to have them orally relate the details of the alleged crime. They reinforce the suspect’s confession and ask open-ended questions to gather more information about the offense. It is crucial to guard against false confessions and ensure the accuracy of the provided details.

Step 9: Elements of Oral and Written Statements

The final step involves converting the oral confession into a written statement. Investigators use a third party to witness the suspect’s oral confession and then transcribe it into a written format. This written statement serves as a record of the confession and may be used as evidence in court.

Enhancing Interviewing and Interrogation Skills

To become proficient in interviewing and interrogation, law enforcement professionals must develop a range of skills and strategies. These include assessing credibility, structuring the investigative interview, employing effective questioning techniques, and utilizing persuasion strategies for deceptive individuals. By continuously improving their skills, investigators can enhance the accuracy and reliability of their interviews and interrogations.

8.1 Credibility Assessment

Evaluating the credibility of information provided by victims, witnesses, or suspects is a crucial aspect of the investigative interview. Investigators must assess the reliability and veracity of statements through careful analysis of verbal and nonverbal cues, consistency in storytelling, and corroboration with other evidence.

8.2 Structuring the Investigative Interview

Structuring the investigative interview involves carefully planning the sequence of questions and topics to cover. Investigators should use a combination of open-ended and specific questions to gather information effectively and guide the flow of the conversation. A well-structured interview ensures comprehensive coverage of relevant topics while allowing for flexibility in exploring new leads.

8.3 Effective Questioning Techniques

Asking the right questions is vital in extracting valuable information during an interview or interrogation. Investigators should utilize various questioning techniques, such as open-ended questions, follow-up questions, and behavior-provoking questions, to elicit detailed and accurate responses. Skillful questioning can reveal inconsistencies, uncover hidden information, and lead to breakthroughs in the investigation.

8.4 Persuasion Strategies for Deceptive Individuals

When dealing with deceptive individuals, investigators must employ effective persuasion strategies to elicit the truth. Building rapport, presenting evidence strategically, appealing to the suspect’s self-interest, and using empathy can help break down resistance and encourage cooperation. By understanding the psychological dynamics at play, investigators can increase the likelihood of obtaining accurate information.


In the realm of police interrogation, the Reid Technique has played a significant role in guiding investigators through the process of obtaining confessions. However, its use has not been without controversy. Critics argue that the technique can lead to false confessions and violate individual rights. Balancing the need for confession integrity with the protection of individual rights is of utmost importance. By adhering to best practices, understanding the nuances of human behavior, and continuously improving interrogation skills, law enforcement professionals can ensure ethical and effective outcomes in the pursuit of justice.

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