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September / October 2017
THE REID TECHNIQUE® consists of a three-phase process beginning with Fact Analysis, followed by the Behavior Analysis Interview (which is a non-accusatory interview designed to develop investigative and behavioral information), followed by, when appropriate, the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation. While all subjects in an investigation are interviewed, very few are interrogated.
Once it is determined by the investigative information that the subject is involved in the commission of the crime, the interrogation begins by advising the subject of the investigation results. The investigator then begins to develop what we refer to as a theme in which we offer the subject a “moral excuse” for the suspect’s commission of the offense or minimizing the moral implications of the conduct.
The fundamental foundation of the interrogation process in the Reid Technique is empathy and understanding. It is imperative that during the interrogation the subject is treated with dignity and respect, and the core of the theme presentation should focus on the concept that the investigator understands that good people can make mistakes in judgment when facing difficult circumstances.
For the most part interrogation themes reinforce the guilty suspect’s own rationalizations and justifications for committing the crime. As part of an offender’s decision to commit a crime or, in the case of a spontaneous crime, following it, it is natural for him to justify or rationalize the crime in some manner. The average person can relate to this instinctive mechanism when thinking back over the last time he exceeded the speed limit while driving.
The illegal behavior may be explained away by believing that speed limit signs were poorly posted or that a perceived emergency existed where the driver could not afford to be late to a scheduled appointment; justification may be realized in the fact that the driver was not going that much over the speed limit and other drivers were going much faster than he was or the driver may blame his passenger for engaging him in conversation that was distracting. The principle being expressed here is that it is human nature to project blame away from oneself and to create excuses for behaviors that cause anxiety, loss of self-esteem, or guilt.
Similarly, the suspect guilty of a criminal act recognizes that committing the crime was wrong, so he also needs to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, and loss of self-esteem. This justification process is one of the most significant differences between an innocent and guilty suspect; the guilty suspect has justified the crime in some manner, whereas the innocent person has not. In justifying the crime, the guilty suspect experiences much less of a troubled conscience when he later lies about committing it.
During the development of the theme, it is appropriate to initially develop a third-person theme wherein the investigator talks about some person or situation that is removed from, but similar to, the suspect’s present case. This third-person theme provides a foundation for the eventual presentation of a theme centered around the subject’s behavior. The following example illustrates a third-person theme.
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