I have a dream: Defeating the Reid Technique of Interrogation


 Maybe you can bake me a cake and get some proper party hats up in here, while you’re at it. We’re going to do things a little differently today.

Martin Luther King had a dream.  I don’t have to tell you that.  I had a dream, too.  It’s not even close to being as important as MLK’s dream.  It’s probably more important than Lionel Richie’s dream, though.  Not that “people in the park playing games in the dark” isn’t an awesome dream- it’s just that I’m dreaming about interrogations.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you dream about interrogations, too.  The difference between us is that I dream about interrogations that actually happen.  You?  Well, I know that are dreaming of the (probably) not safe for work interrogation in Basic Instinct:

If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’ve been on a crusade against the Reid Technique of interrogation.  If I were to briefly sum up my dislike for it in a few sentences (a nearly impossible task), it would be something like this:

  1. The Reid Technique is an incredibly complicated psychological tool that even the Reid Institute admits can lead to false confessions;
  2. The primary way the Reid Technique looks to prevent innocent people from admitting to things they did not do, is for the interrogator to reasonably believe the suspect is guilty before getting into the 9 steps;
  3. Interrogators are wrong when it comes to judging guilt or innocence- a lot. This essentially makes step #2 a joke.

So, I had this interrogation dream.  I dreamed the cops showed up at my office.  When I asked them why I was there, they asked if I’d be willing to come on down to the station to talk “about a few things” and they’d give me more information there.  Of course, because I don’t even listen to my own advice, I went down (letting them drive me, as they always like to do).  Why not?  I’m innocent. I have nothing to hide, right?

Interrogation room setup
Interrogation Room

When I got there, it was almost like my little dream turned into a Reid Technique nightmare.  I’m in a tiny room with bland walls and no decor.  There’s an interrogator in a chair right in front of me.  There’s another dude off to the side just watching.  They’ve closed the door telling me that they’d like to keep it private.  They told me there were cameras, but they weren’t running.  They told me that I killed Jimmy Hoffa.  They’re sympathetic, though- I probably did it in self defense. After all, Jimmy got violent when he drank and he was probably violent that night, right?  Every time I tell them they’re nuts, they cut me off.

Then I wake up in a cold sweat.  That’s not my dream, man.  That’s a nightmare lived out on every youtube interrogation video ever posted.

In my dream, it doesn’t go down like that.  In my dream, they come to my office and ask to talk.  When they tell me they’d rather not talk in my office, I say “sure, let’s head down to Dunkin’ Donuts. I’ll call my lawyer and make sure he can meet us.”  I know they’re not going for that, even if they do love donuts.

But, maybe this is one of those dreams where I end up doing weird things. So, I head down to the cop shop and they walk me into that little room.  “Just take a seat right there,” he says to me.  It’s my dream, so I’m not about to sit where some dude tells me to.  Instead, I fire back,  “How about you sit in that cramped corner with your back to the wall, your buddy the observer can sit in the little chair only two feet away, and I’ll sit over here in the non-confrontational chair across the table?  Maybe you can bake me a cake and get some proper party hats up in here, while you’re at it. We’re going to do things a little differently today.”

How do you think that’s going to go?  I don’t know much about anything important, but I do know a little about the police.  They hate it when things go off script.  They hate it when you don’t let them take absolute control, and they hate it when you say things to them that they aren’t prepared for.  I’ve been reading the Reid Technique manual.  Oddly, it doesn’t tell an interrogator what to to do when the suspect won’t sit where he’s “supposed” to.  Probably because nobody tries it.

I’m not sitting anywhere I don’t want to. I’m also not letting them ask anything they want.  “Tell us about Jimmy Hoffa… we know you knew him,” they ask.  “How about you tell me a little bit about yourself, first... Are you a Virgo?  You look like a Virgo.” I shoot back. “You know where I live.  You know everything about me.  What about you?  Where do you live?  Wife? Kids?”

And when the cop changes the subject or refuses to answer, I’m going right back at him with the same thing.  “Tell me about your house, officer.  How big is your basement?  How many bathrooms.  Do you shovel your own driveway?”  Seems only reasonable that if I’m going to have a conversation with a man, I can get to know him first, right?  When he doesn’t want to talk, well, I’m shocked and offended.   I came down to his turf to be a decent man and conversate. Here he is and he won’t even tell me what he likes on his pizza.  The nerve of some people.

The Reid technique is all about control and getting people to talk to a stranger about what you would think might be their most private moments.  In my dream I’m firing out of the box and letting those cops know that if they want that from me, they’re going to earn it.

There really is no Reid Technique in my dream.  Before we ever get there, the interrogator gets frustrated.  He starts yelling at me.  He tells me he’s not going to answer my questions. He tells me what seat I have to sit in, and when I refuse to go there he threatens to use force to “assist” me there.  Rather than get assited anywhere, I give him back a little control.  “You want to be in control Mr. Officer?  I’ll give you control.  Let me the hell out of this station, or I’m calling my lawyer. You control which I do.”

And then I wake up giggling.

Would a cop get that frustrated in real life?  How is the interrogator going to act if I don’t sit in the special seat?  I’ve never seen anybody try that, so I don’t really know.  The Reid books I’ve read don’t really cover it, either.

I’ve seen enough police work to have a pretty good idea of how I think it will go down.  I don’t know for sure though.  That’s why, until it happens, it’s all just my glorious dream.

Matt Haiduk is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who likes to live by his own rules.  He has offices in Geneva and Crystal Lake, Illinois.  Feel free to add him on Google+.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is an uncooperative Criminal Defense Lawyer with offices in Kane County and McHenry County, Illinois. When he's not picking on people on the internet, he's playing frisbee with his dog or watching his girlfriend race bikes. Feel free to mock him on twitter or add him on Google+.

3 thoughts on “I have a dream: Defeating the Reid Technique of Interrogation”

  1. I think the key to it all is never finding yourself in that room, by not going down there if you have a choice. Or, if you do end up there, asking for a lawyer right away!

    I skipped over that part, though, as I've been saying it for years and not enough folks bother to listen!

Leave a Reply