Reform Police Questioning Procedures

  • by: Martin Katz
  • recipient: Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, US House Judiciary Committee

It is estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 US convicted prisoners are not guilty. In part this is a result of police practices that encourage false confessions. False confessions are often a result of police lies during questioning combined with the anxiety caused by being questioned in a police station, repetition of questions, and detention for an extended period of time in hostile conditions. This type of questioning and physical torture are similarly unreliable at extracting the truth.

US law and the FBI Guidelines to police departments must be changed to prohibit lying during questioning, require evidence of guilt before transportation for questioning, and require significant supporting evidence before a confession is submitted to a court. The guidelines must specify the level and type of evidence required before transporting a person for questioning. Acquaintance with a person of interest, frequenting the location location of a crime, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, previous bad acts, psychological profiling without evidence, refusal to answer questions, or refusal to be searched may not be used as reasons to suspect a person of a crime.

Evidence or confessions extracted using lies, transportation for questioning without evidence or in depth questioning without evidence must result in that evidence being considered the same as evidence gathered by an illegal search. In addition, the officers or detectives involved in the extraction of this information must be removed from the case. Knowingly extracting a false confession or false information is equivalent to planting evidence and must be punished as such.

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