Public Trust and Police Deception

57 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2017 Last revised: 13 Jul 2018

See all articles by Julia Ann Simon-Kerr

Julia Ann Simon-Kerr

University of Connecticut - School of Law

Date Written: January 20, 2018


At a time when truth is being contested in unprecedented ways in American history, it is more important than ever to expand our analytical toolset for assessing the costs, benefits and moral implications of routine deception by those who hold positions of public trust. This paper takes up this project through the lens of deceptive interrogation by police. Deceptive interrogation is an anomaly in our legal system, which is otherwise facially committed to truth seeking. The main argument in favor of deceptive interrogation has been that it is effective, and most scholarship about this practice has focused on efficacy. Whether lies are in fact effective in interrogating suspects remains unproven. But deceptive interrogation also has important externalities that are rarely discussed. This Article explores the costs of deceptive interrogation to public trust and to the moral legitimacy of the legal system. It makes the case that even if deceptive interrogation can be effective, it is still deeply problematic and even destructive. Some sacrifice in utility is worth making for the sake of a society in which police model the respect for truth upon which the system of justice depends.

Keywords: Deceptive interrogation, police, criminal justice, criminal procedure, law and philosophy, morality and law, law and humanities

Suggested Citation

Simon-Kerr, Julia Ann, Public Trust and Police Deception (January 20, 2018). Northeastern University Law Review, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Julia Ann Simon-Kerr (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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