From Coercion to Deception: The Changing Nature of Police Interrogation in America

Crime, Law, and Social Change, Vol. 18, 1992

25 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2008

See all articles by Richard A. Leo

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law


This article describes and explains changes in the nature of police interrogation that have occurred during the last half-century in America. The author argues that, during the last fifty to sixty years, there has been a profound transformation in the methods, strategies, and consciousness of police interrogators. Psychological deception has replaced physical coercion as one of the most salient, defining features of contemporary police interrogation. Where once custodial interrogation routinely involved physical violence and duress, police questioning now consists of subtle and sophisticated psychological ploys and techniques that rely on manipulation, persuasion, and deception for their efficacy. Not only do police now openly and strongly condemn the use of physical force during interrogation, they also believe that psychological tactics are far more effective at eliciting confessions. The use of deception has, in effect, become a functional alternative to the use of coercion. With this change, police power in the context of interrogation has acquired new meaning: it has become more subtle, more invasive, and more total, effectuated through psychological manipulation rather than physical violence.

Keywords: Criminal procedure, criminal justice, law enforcement, interrogation techniques

Suggested Citation

Leo, Richard A., From Coercion to Deception: The Changing Nature of Police Interrogation in America. Available at SSRN:

Richard A. Leo (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics