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
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
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