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In this paper, we will review the article titled “Police practices and perceptions regarding juvenile interrogation and interrogative susceptibility,” written by Jessica R. Meyer and N. Dickon Reppucci.
As the name of the article suggests, it covers the topic of how most police officers treat juveniles as if they were adults and similarly interrogate them. While some officers acknowledge the psychological immaturity of children and juveniles, in practice, they rarely give it the appropriate amount of concern. This results in an alarmingly large number of false confessions made under pressure.
In their project, the authors aim to cover the reported interrogational practices used by the police and document beliefs spread among law enforcement officers about differences between youth and adults in regards to interrogation technique susceptibility and general development capacities. The study is important as it casts light on the subject currently underrepresented and understudied. Interrogation techniques can be damaging to a child’s psyche, and false confessions are detrimental to law enforcement.
The literature on the subject shows the prevalence of Reid techniques in interrogation. These techniques rely on coercion, deception, physical and emotional exhaustion to get a confession out of a person. The review of the study programs indicates that out of 32 hours of study time dedicated to interrogation techniques, only 10 minutes are spent explaining how to deal with juveniles. Criminal and social science literature is split on how effective Reid techniques are. Criminal literature claims them to be effective in incriminating a criminal, while social sciences report alarmingly large rates of false confessions. The study proposes three hypotheses:
- Interrogators lack accurate knowledge about child development.
- Interrogators lack accurate knowledge about the unreliability of Reid techniques when dealing with children.
- Law enforcement uses the same psychologically coercive and deceptive techniques with both juveniles and adults.
Methods and Data
This study involved 332 participants, all of whom were police officers. The study makes a good representation of the entire population, as the participants were diversified in age, sex, race, and rank. The study used a qualitative research method. The researchers used surveys to collect data from all participants.
The findings of this study supported the initial hypotheses – the majority of the participants did not see the difference between juveniles and adults when it came to interrogation processes. While some participants acknowledged that children were more psychologically vulnerable and more prone to coercive and deceptive techniques, they did not apply that knowledge to actual interrogation and similarly treated juveniles and adults.
Discussion and Conclusion
These findings are important as they indicate a large gap of knowledge present in both new and experienced police officers in regards to interrogation techniques. This lack of knowledge promotes the use of Reid techniques, which are often deemed dangerous and ineffective, and contribute to increased rates of false confessions being made. The authors identified several limitations to their study, one of them being that the sample was taken from metropolitan police departments, meaning it does not accurately represent police practices in other areas. Another limitation mentioned in this study states that some police officers might have expressed social desirability bias. Lastly, the researchers state that some answers were obscured by personal experience in the field, particularly among the participants who handled serious criminal cases. In regards to future studies, the authors suggest conducting similar research on a larger scale, to confirm their findings.