The Reid Technique

The Reid Technique is a registered trademark of the firm John E Reid and Associates and is widely used by law enforcement agencies all across North America.

Touted by users as the chosen method for dealing with unwilling suspects, its critics call the technique an atrocity which regularly elicits false confessions from innocent people, especially children.  

In 1947, John E Reid opened a private polygraph practice and began to make big strides in finding truth and deception without to assistance of interrogation.  He started to build an interrogation format that would assist the investigators in obtaining a confession.  

In 1974, the Reid Technique of Interview and Interrogation was first taught to outside investigators; today it is the most widely used and taught technique for law enforcement agencies across the nation.  

Comprised of three separate components- factual analysis, behavioral analysis interview, and then the Reid Nine steps of interrogation, it is meant to eliminate innocent suspects during an interrogation.  

The interrogator begins by telling the suspect that there is no doubt to their guilt.  The key is to make the suspect more and more comfortable with confessing.  They are asked loaded questions that contain unspoken assumptions of guilt.  

The investigator starts by the interrogation by telling a story rather than asking the suspect direct questions.  The nine steps of interrogation are meant to follow the story.  

The nine steps of interrogation are listed below:

  1. Direct confrontation-  Tell the suspect that the evidence has brought them to this point.  You then offer the suspect the opportunity to explain how and why the offense took place
  2. Shift the Blame- try to push to blame to another person or event that prompted to suspect to commit the crime.  During this phase you start to develop themes that will help the suspect excuse the crime.  Themes can change or morph over time to find the one that the suspect is most responsive to.
  3. Discourage the suspect from denying guilt
  4. Denial- the suspect will try to offer a reason why they did not or could not have committed the crime, try to use this to move forward towards a confession.  
  5. Make the suspect more receptive by offering friendship or sincerity
  6. Suspect becomes silent and will begin to listen more rather than talk.  Discuss the theme of the crime more offering them alternatives.  If they start to cry, take care to infer it is due to guilt.
  7. Alternative Question- Give the suspect two choices for what happened making one more socially acceptable than the other.  The suspect is meant to choose between the two.  The third option is that they continue to profess innocence, however this option is rarely chosen.  
  8. Repeat- Get the suspect to repeat their guilt in front of others and begin to develop corroborating information to establish validity for the confession.
  9. Documentation- Have the suspect document their confession, prepare a statement audio, video, or written.

The Reid Technique has been used for many years to elicit confessions, in many other countries it has been barred, because of the propensity of false confessions.  Despite the evidence that the technique can and does increase the odds of a suspect confessing to a crime they did not commit, it is still the most widely used and taught technique for investigators in the United States. light bulb.jpeg