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Published: Friday March 10, 2017

A seismic change in Police interviewing?

On the 9th March 2017 a press statement was issued by US  interview and interrogation company Wicklander Zulawski and Associates which could prove to be a catalyst which,in time, prompts significant changes in the manner in which US law enforcement deal with suspects.

In the statement Wicklander Zulawski stated that with immediate effect it would cease offering training to law enforcement in what is commonly known as the Reid Technique.The Reid technique, classified as a confrontational interrogative approach, is codified in their “A field guide to the Reid technique” manual.  The manual identifies nine steps which involve the use of psychological techniques including maximisation and minimisation and most controversially the use of untrue statements to coax a confession from the interviewee.

The system has garnered much negative publicity and the growing links to identified examples of false confessions have been widely reported. The timimg of the announcement and the potential straw that broke the camels back prompting this major U turn in approach could in part be attributed to the Netflix documentary “making of a muderer” which received a great amount of publicity and comment on the apparently coercive nature of the interviews undertaken in the featured case.Certainly, this has been a rallying point for those opposed to the system and appears to have stimulated debate at senior levels in both US Government and Law enforcement.

A new page on the WZ website states;

‘The high risk of false confessions, potential for incorrect or unreliable information, and ultimately the misapplication of confrontational techniques are all reasons why WZ has chosen to no longer offer the confrontational approach in its course selection”.

This acknowledges the long held concerns regarding the coercive nature of the  system.Advocates of the PEACE interview technique, which originated in the U.K. In the 1980s, have through, amongst others, the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (IIIRG) highlighted its potential dangers and deficiencies for more than a decade.

WZ have a strong client base in the U.K. And Europe  amongst loss prevention investigators and will now concentrate on what they call the non – confrontational approach. This is still a long way from the PEACE model as it is essentially a talking method  denying the suspect the ability to make an early denial whereas the PEACE method is predominantly a listening method contrasting and comparing a suspects freely given disclosure against known facts.

No matter what the motivation for the change in direction, WZ should be applauded for taking this brave decision.

WZ  have stated that their approach now is the search for truth which is fine as long as they accept that whilst a confession made openly,without coercion or influence, is a valid outcome of good interviewing  it should not be the only aim and is not always the most appropriate way of establishing the truth.

The Centre for Investigative Learning have developed the Effective investigative Conversations methodology which like PEACE draws its influence from the principles of Effective communication theory and has been specifically scoped to suit the needs of non law enforcement professionals. It has been delivered across 4 continents and is both ethical and transparent and in line with legal requirements in most jurisdictions.

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