Interrogating Guilty Suspects: Why Sipowicz Never Has to Admit He is Wrong

WHAT WOULD SIPOWICZ DO? RACE, RIGHTS, AND REDEMPTION IN NYPD BLUE, Glenn Yeffeth, Shanna Caughey, eds., 2005

12 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2010

See all articles by George C. Thomas

George C. Thomas

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: 2005

Abstract

On the television police drama NYPD Blue, Andy Sipowicz and his colleagues often use threats of physical violence and psychological interrogation tactics to extract confessions from “guilty suspects.” Sipowicz is portrayed as a white knight who serves a nobler ideal than respecting the physical integrity of suspects: obtaining justice for innocent victims. Although the television show is fictional, it has implications regarding real-life interrogation tactics used by the police. In this chapter, the authors analyze scenes from NYPD Blue in which the detectives use physical violence, threats of violence, and negative and positive incentive techniques to induce confessions from suspects. Throughout the chapter, the authors compare the tactics used by Sipowicz to those used by real-life police officers. The chapter ends with a summary of the comparisons between NYPD Blue and real-life police interrogations. The authors assert that while police indeed use every psychological tactic they think will work to extract a confession, the amount of violence used on the television show does not reflect what is known about contemporary interrogation when it comes to physical coercion: violence, assaults, and threats occur far less frequently than the television show suggests.

Keywords: NYPD Blue, police interrogations, confessions, law in popular culture

Suggested Citation

Thomas, George C. and Leo, Richard A., Interrogating Guilty Suspects: Why Sipowicz Never Has to Admit He is Wrong (2005). WHAT WOULD SIPOWICZ DO? RACE, RIGHTS, AND REDEMPTION IN NYPD BLUE, Glenn Yeffeth, Shanna Caughey, eds., 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1683783

George C. Thomas

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School ( email )

NJ
United States

Richard A. Leo (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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