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Deceptive Interrogation

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The Negative Effects of Police Deception in Interrogation

Andrew Maynard
CJUS 420-B02
Mr. Jeffery Fox
July 1, 2013

The Negative Effects of Police Deception in Interrogation

Police interrogation today is defined as; Interrogation is police questioning a suspect in order to find answers about a crime that has been committed. The suspect that is being questioned by police is entitled to know his or her rights. The evidence in the trial will be in admissible if the interrogator of the suspect does not inform the suspect of his or her rights ("Interrogation law and," 2001). In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled that the police have to read to the suspect detained the rights they are given under the Constitution U.S. Legal (2001). These rights protect the individual from falling into the trap of deceptive interrogation. Many people do not understand that if they just kept quiet and wait for a lawyer, their so-called innocence can be saved. Deceptive interrogation by law is acceptable, with the reading of the Miranda rights, and the police will use this tool as much as they can as long as it doesn’t exceed the boundaries they are placed under. Deceptive interrogation is unnecessary for law enforcement to exercise in order to convict the accused.
Today’s methods of interrogation are more mental then physical as mentioned before. There are several tools police can use as a means of deceiving a suspect in order to obtain a confession or information. One common strategy is the use of fabricated documents. In the Case State v. Cayward, a man sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl and killed her. Cayward, being the suspect, the police could not convict him for the crime. The prosecutor in the case told the police to fabricate documents containing evidence from Cayward. During an interview with Cayward, the police revealed the convincing fabricated documents and Cayward admitted to the crime. Although in this case, the court accepted the tactic of using deceptive documents (Mount, 2013).

The police’s job is to find the wrongful suspect in a case. Of course the police can accidentally acquire an innocent suspect and interrogate them. Using deception on an innocent suspect can result in a false confession. The police using their power can almost force an innocent person to commit a crime. There was a study done by the Innocence Project and it concluded that of 300 people convicted, 25% of them were convicted from a false confession (Slobodzian, 2012).

There is an importance of ethics when it comes to criminal justice and law. Citizens trust the police with their lives and violating ethics in a police department is not good for their image. A lot of cases that involve using deceptive interrogation is when the suspect is unrepresented (Skolnick, 1992). By not having a lawyer to protect the defendant the police took advantage of the situation because the suspect did not know any better. Even the police can deceive the defendant into waiving his Miranda rights. The police may read his or her Miranda rights but the suspect is still not fully aware, especially if the defendant is from another country. Departments need to make sure the defendant is fully aware of the situation instead of the police using their power to intimidate and deceive the defendant whether they are guilty or not.

Police that work in the interrogation field lie and deceive on a daily basis. Geoffrey Alpert (2009) then explains that there are accepted lies that the police can use in the interrogation. So called “white lies” are considered acceptable because everyone has grown up and experienced these lies. These “white lies” consist of exaggerating or joking about a situation. Another example of an accepted lie by police consists of not hurting or harming an individuals feeling. This lie is more of a common courtesy and the police do not receive anything from it. These lies are acceptable as long as they do not hurt the department or even the individual officer’s integrity. It is the department’s job to set those standards in order to protect the department. Police overstep their boundaries when it comes to lying. Banks (2008), furthermore states, that not only do police lie that violate a departments guidelines but also violates the law they have sworn to protect. A well-known defense attorney assumes that almost all police officers lie when they are questioned in a case. There is a lost of trust in a department when police lie frequently on the stand. John Kleinig (1996) also lists the consequences when police lie:

* Others are harmed. A suspect may be deceived as if he is doing something but is being led to do it. * Social trust is destroyed and the liar is harmed. A suspect that discovers the lie of an interrogator can ruin a case. The suspect then can change his attitude toward the officer and case and not cooperate.

The unethical use of this form of deception of police can possibly affect an outcome of a case. Before there was even a way to trace DNA for evidence, there were hundreds of cases where the guilty were innocent. In 1932 an estimate of 38 wrongful convictions were found. In 1987 to 1992 that number climbed upward to around 400. Even in 2006 with all of the technology police had there were still 189 people who were wrongfully convicted of a serious crime (Findley, 2010).

Frazier v.Cupp was a case in the 1960’s that first introduced the permissibility of deception in interrogation. Frazier admitted to the crime because the police lied saying that his friend Rawls confessed everything. The Court ruled that because the confession was not voluntary the court ruled that the case be dismissed (Mount, 2013). In 2008, Adrian Thomas confessed that he threw his son against a bed several times. The confession was a result of the police lying to Thomas. The police lied about the condition of the boy and even threated to arrest Thomas’s wife. The judged ruled in 2010 that Thomas should be sent to prison for 25 years. The case in 2012 was appealed because the court found that the police violated the suspect’s constitution rights (Weissner, 2012).

Police officers have always had the problem of falling into the “slippery slope”. This is also referred to as “camel’s nose” because the camel is trying to get into something that he shouldn’t. A slippery slope for an officer is doing one thing that leads to another and then eventually he or she is doing something that is prohibited. An example would be if an officer, while searching a vehicle, finds money and puts some of it in his pocket without anyone knowing. As the officer progresses in committing the same crime, the officer will be more tempted to take more money every. Before long, the officer is out of control, gets caught, and ruins the reputation of his or her department. As stated previously, when cops lie in an interrogation room, they are more likely to lie in a courtroom under oath.

Police need to stop tampering and creating false evidence. In an interrogation, the police need to build trust with the suspect in order to gain cooperation. A suspect can lose trust in law enforcement when officers try to deceive a suspect and the suspect knows that the officer is lying. When police lie, they risk not having cooperation with the suspect and receiving a valid confession. Also, when a confession is achieved by willingness, rather then through deceit and manipulation, that confession is more reliable and will stand in a court of law. There has been a controversial argument on whether banishing deceitful interrogation harms the work on undercover officers. The situation doesn’t apply because the officer is not manipulating the suspect. The suspect is acting normal and stating something as if an officer was not there (Khasin 2009).

Another safeguard for the police to have is the recording of the interrogation. Without any evidence of the interrogation the police can easily lie or tamper with given statements from the suspect. A recorder also keeps the police from abusing their power. In 1990 The National Institute of Justice in the United States researched how many law enforcement agencies recorded interrogations of serious offenses. The study concluded that approximately “one-third of all U.S. police and sheriffs’ departments serving 50,000 or more citizens videotap[ed] at least some interrogations…” (Khasin 2009). By recording interrogation, a survey showed that the majority of agencies improved on their interrogation techniques and gained approval from the public.

The points explained and supported in this paper prove that suspects in an interrogation should not be victims of deceit used by police. By looking at the definition and the ways of deception, it shows that police are not as honest as they should be in their position. Then looking at cases, it is proven that deceptive interrogation does more harm then good. Lastly, the paper pointed out how police can be negatively impacted and ways departments can improve. Interrogating suspects is one critical area where the police can fulfill that task.

Alpert, G. P. (2009). Lies, true lies, and conscious deception: Police officers and the truth. Police Quarterly, 12(2), 237-254.

Banks, C. (2009). Criminal justice ethics:theory and practice. (2nd ed., pp. 71-74). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publication Inc.

Findley, Keith A. (2010) "WRONGFUL CONVICTION." Encyclopedia of Psychology and Law. 2007. SAGE Publications. <>.

(2001). Interrogation law and legal definition. USLegal, Retrieved from

Khasin, I. (2009). Honesty is the best policy: A case for the limitation of deceptive police interrogation practices in the united states. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 42, 1029-1060. Retrieved from

Kleinig, J. (1996). The ethics of policing. Cambridge University Press.

Mount, D. C. (2013, February).Strategic deception revisited: The use of fabricated documents during interrogation—permissible ploy or prohibited practice?. The Police Chief, Retrieved from

Skolnick, J. H. (1992). The ethics of deceptive interrogation. In M. C. Braswell (Ed.), JUSTICE, CRIME, AND ETHICS (Vol. 2, p. 1). New York, NY: Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics.

Slobodzian, J. A. (2012). False confessions taint many cases, temple law forum told. Retrieved from

Weissner, D. (2012). High court to hear murder case that questions police interrogation tactics. New York Legal, Retrieved from

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