Former Cop Speaks Out Against Bad Interrogation Practices

by dave on January 4, 2012

in Criminal Justice

What would it take for you to confess to a crime that you didn’t commit? Would several hours in an interrogation room do it? For many, the acts of interrogating police officers push them to the edge, where they end up admitting to crimes they never committed. One former police officer is working to change that, or at least to get the word out there that these false confessions sometimes, or usually, happen because of the actions of the interrogators.

According to USA Today, Jim Trainum is a retired homicide detective. He was a cop for 27 years, and now works as a consultant on cold cases and wrongful convictions, specializing in false confessions. He admits to soliciting fast confessions, his first just one year after starting as a homicide detective.

While the general public, having never been questioned by the police, don’t understand what could make someone admit to something as serious as a murder when they are innocent, Trainum says there are several things that can lead to a false confession.

A professor with Northwestern University School of Law, Steven Drizin, says that most false confessions begin with a “misclassification error”. This means the police enter the interrogation already believing that the suspect is guilty. They are interested in catching the bad guy and the interrogation is their chance to do so.

Also, investigators often ignore evidence pointing to the suspect’s innocence. As Trainiun describes it like a speeding train, “While you’re on that train, you might be getting other leads coming in, other clues about the killer, but because we’re so fixated on the suspect, often times those clues go undocumented.”

In a heated, high stakes interrogation, police will also use coercion, bordering on threats, to gain a confession. They’ll talk about how the suspect is looking at a lengthy prison sentence or even the death penalty if they are convicted. If they confess, however, they’re told they could be spared the harshest of sentences.

Finally, many officers tell the suspect key details of the crime when in the interrogation room. This allows the exhausted and stressed suspect to relay a detailed confession when they may have not even been present at the crime scene.

Better training and recorded interrogations are just two things that could reduce the likelihood of false confessions. Many wrongful convictions are centered on a suspect’s false confession, which they usually later recant but no one then believes them.

Being questioned by the police can be very frightening and stressful. If you are accused of a criminal offense and arrested or even brought in for questioning, you can stop the questioning by asking to contact your attorney.

If you have questions about your case or don’t want to face the police alone, let us put you in touch with a local criminal defense lawyer today.


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