Author’s note from Attorney Howard Iken: The Reid Technique is an interrogation method used by many police officers, characterized by nine stages aimed at obtaining a confession. These steps include presenting potentially incriminating evidence (whether real or fabricated), suggesting possible justifications for the suspect’s actions, discouraging denials of guilt, refuting objections to their guilt, building rapport, observing for signs of surrender, proposing alternate explanations for the crime, prompting more openness about the crime, and finally, documenting the confession. Critics argue the technique can sometimes result in false confessions.
Many police officers use an interrogation method called the Reid Technique. You may recognize this method from past interactions with the police. Some industry experts claim it is a non-accusatory technique that helps determine whether a person will tend to tell the truth. Some critics believe this technique will result in some false confessions. In any case you should be aware of the technique so you do not accidentally say something to the police that incriminates yourself. Remember: the best technique of all is to say nothing to the police and to immediately request an attorney.
The Reid technique’s nine steps of interrogation
Step 1 – Direct Confrontation. The officer will show you some evidence they collected. The evidence can be real or fake. Or the evidence may have been gathered illegally. In any case, the officer will try to convince the suspect they have a no-brainer case against them.
Step 2 – The officer may pretend to help you justify why you had to do what you did. You may be encouraged to blame another person for causing you to commit the crime.
Step 3 – You may be discouraged from denying your guilt because the supposed evidence is really strong. Every time you start to say you didn’t do it, the police officer may try to interrupt you. If the officer allows you to say “I didn’t do it” it becomes easier to repeat later on. That also makes it more difficult to get a later confession.
Step 4 – You may use logic to convince the officer why you could not have committed the crime. Their job is to poke holes in your logic.
Step 5 – The officer tries to appear sincere, friendly, and non-threatening. Many detectives almost feel like family members and express concern for your safety and well-being. They may try to convince you that they are your friend and ally.
Step 6 – The officer looks for body language that shows surrender to the situation. This could take the form of being quiet, slumped shoulders, crying, or attentiveness.
Step 7 – The officer may offer you alternatives for why the crime was committed. One alternative may show you are a not-so-bad person and got caught up in something involuntarily.
Step 8 – If things go well (for the police officer) you may be ready to talk more willingly about the crime. You will be encouraged to repeat an admission of guilt. You may even be given a logical reason to admit guilt of other possible crimes.
Step 9 – The last step and goal of the interrogation is to document your confession in front of a witness, on video, or through a written statement.