Alberta judge slams use of ‘Reid’ interrogation technique in Calgary police investigation, Ruling says widely used police strategy infringes on rights

Alberta judge slams use of ‘Reid’ interrogation technique in Calgary police investigation, Ruling says widely used police strategy infringes on rights by Douglas Quan, September 11, 2012, Postmedia News
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.

Calgary police Insp. Steven Barlow said Monday the force is reviewing its practices and training in light of the judge’s ruling.

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. [Emphasis added]

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