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Chapter 3

The Psychology of
Police Investigations

Police Interrogations
The Reid model of interrogation
Interrogations and the courts
False Confessions
Types of false confessions
Criminal Profiling
Profiling approaches
Problems with profiling

Police Investigations
Rely on witnesses, victims, and suspects to fill
in the details surrounding the crime
Who was involved, what happened, where
and when did it happen, how did it happen,
why did it happen
Evidence is collected through interviews,
interrogations, and confessions

Police Interrogations

There are two goals of a police

interrogation (Kassin, 1997):
Obtain a confession
Gain information that will further the
investigation (e.g., the location of

The Coercive Nature of Police


History of coercive measures:

Mid-1900s: whipping suspects to get a
1980s: stun guns used by the NYPD
extract confessions
More recently: psychological methods
such as trickery and deceit (e.g., lying
about evidence)

The Reid Model of Interrogation

Most common interrogation method used in
Involves 3 general stages:
Gather evidence
Conduct a non-accusatorial interview to
assess deception/guilt
Conduct an accusatorial interrogation to
obtain a confession

The Reid Model of Interrogation


The third stage involves 9 steps that are used

to break down the suspects resistance
In general, these steps involve:
Confronting the suspect with his or her
Providing the suspect with the means to
justify their crime

The Reid Model of Interrogation


Interrupting any statements of

innocence made by the suspect
Obtaining a written confession from
the suspect
The psychology behind this technique is
to make the anxiety associated with
deception greater than the anxiety related
to the consequences of confessing

Interrogation Techniques

In general, interrogations techniques can

be broken down into two categories:
Minimization: Soft sell tactics that
provide a sense of false security
Maximization: Scare tactics that
attempt to intimidate suspects

Problems with the Reid Model of

Assumes that police officers can accurately
detect deception when little evidence supports
this assumption
Officers enter the accusatorial interrogation
with the belief that the suspect is guilty, which
can lead to inappropriate biases
Coercive techniques used in this model may
elicit false confessions

The Admissibility of Confessions

For confessions to be admitted into court they
must be given:
voluntarily and
by a person who is competent
Confessions that are obtained by overtly
coercive tactics will not be admissible in court
More subtle forms of coercion, such as
exaggerating evidence, are acceptable in
Canada (e.g., R v. Oickle, 2000)

Recent Changes to Interrogations


interrogations is becoming
more common
Benefits include:
Protects police against false
allegations of abuse
Protects citizens from police coercion
Allows courts to make informed

False Confessions
A false confession occurs when an individual
confesses to a crime they did not commit or
exaggerates their involvement in a crime they
did commit
Must be distinguished from a disputed and a
retracted confession
Three types of false confessions:

Voluntary False Confessions

A voluntary false confession occurs
without being prompted by the police
Can be the result of a desire for notoriety,
an inability to distinguish fact from
fantasy, an attempt to protect the real
offender, or a need to be punished

An example: The Lindbergh case

Coerced-Compliant False
A coerced-compliant false confession
occurs in response to a desire to escape
further interrogation or to gain a promised
The confessor knows that they did not
commit the crime
An example: Gerry Conlon and the IRA

Coerced-Internalized False
A coerced-internalized false confession
results from highly suggestive interrogations
The confessor comes to believe that they did
commit the crime (i.e., internalizes)
Some people, such as those with learning
disabilities, are more susceptible to this type
of confession (Gudjonsson, 1992)
An example: The Paul Ingram case

Compliance and Suggestibility

Two psychological constructs are important

in understanding false confessions:
Compliance: Tendency to go along
with people in authority (related to
coerced-compliant confessions)
Suggestibility: Tendency to internalize
information communicated during
questioning (related to coercedinternalized confessions)

False Confessions in the Laboratory

The famous computer key study by Kassin &
Kiechel (1996)
A situation was set up where participants were
accused of committing a crime
Suspects vulnerability was manipulated as was
the presence of false evidence
Percentage of false confessions were recorded
under various conditions


False Confessions in the Laboratory

(Table 3.1; Kassin & Kiechel, 1996)

No False Evidence

False Evidence













Criminal Profiling
Criminal profiling is a technique for
identifying the personality and
behavioural features of an offender based
on an analysis of the crimes they have
Most frequently used in homicide and rape

History of Criminal Profiling

Late 1800s: The Jack the Ripper
1950s: The New York Mad Bomber
1970s: Criminal profiling program
developed at the F.B.I.
Today: Similar programs have been
developed internationally (e.g., the
RCMPs Behavioural Science Section)

The Purposes of Profiling

Suspect prioritization
New lines of inquiry
Flush out offender
Develop interview strategies
Offer cross-examination strategies to

Approaches to Profiling

In general, there are two approaches to

Deductive profiling: Profiling an
offender from evidence relating to that
offenders crimes
Inductive profiling: Profiling an
offender from what is known about
other offenders who have committed
similar (solved) crimes

Organized-Disorganized Model

The FBI use an inductive approach to profiling

known as the organized-disorganized model
(Hazelwood & Douglas, 1980)

Organized-Disorganized Model

Crime scenes categorized as organized

(methodical) or disorganized (chaotic)
Background characteristics categorized as
organized (high functioning) or
disorganized (low functioning)
Organized crimes are assumed to have been
committed by organized offenders and
disorganized crimes are assumed to have
been committed by disorganized offenders

Organized-Disorganized Model:
Little research has examined the model, but
that which has been conducted raises serious
doubts (Canter et al., 2004)
Cannot account for offenders who display a
mix of organized and disorganized features
(Douglas et al., 1992)

The Value of Profiling

Surveys of police officers indicate profiling is
useful in investigations (Copson, 1995)
Benefits of profiles include:
Provide a greater understanding of the
case (60.9%)
Reinforce judgements about the offender
Only 2.6% of respondents indicated that
profiles led to the identification of the offender

Potential Problems with Profiling

Many forms of profiling are based on a model
of personality (the classic trait model) that
lacks empirical support (Alison et al., 2002)
Profiles often contain ambiguous advice and
such advice can be interpreted to fit a wide
range of suspects (Alison et al., 2003)
Professional profilers do not always produce
profiles that are more accurate than the profiles
produced by novices (Kocsis et al., 2000)

Other Types of Profiling

The police also use two other types of

Geographic profiling
Racial profiling

Geographic Profiling
Geographic profiling involves an
analysis of crime scene locations in order
to determine the most probable area of
offender residence
Assumes that offenders do not travel long
distances from home to commit the
majority of their crimes
In many cases geographic profiles can be
quite accurate (Rossmo, 2000)

Geographic Profiling Systems

Systems that use mathematical models to
assign probability values to areas surrounding
linked crimes that correspond to the
likelihood that the offender resides in those
Teaching individuals simple heuristics can
produce results equivalent in accuracy to
those produced by computer systems (Snook
et al., 2004)

Racial Profiling
Racial profiling refers to any police
initiated action that uses race to make
decisions regarding an individual
One common form of racial profiling is
stopping and searching vehicles when it is
believed that a persons race does not
match the type of car driven
Empirical research does not support the
use of racial profiling (Lamberth, 1999)