In recent years, DNA tests have proved something surprising: people sometimes confess to terrible crimes that they definitely did not commit. Officers in Great Britain think they've found a better way in the PEACE method, which stands for Preparation and Planning, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure and Evaluate.
David Harris is a University of Pittsburgh law professor and host of 90.5 WESA's Criminal Injustice podcast. He talked to Jonathan Davison, who trains investigators in the United Kingdom and New Zealand to build a firm but friendly rapport and coax information out of their interview subjects – not just look for confessions.
Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
DAVID HARRIS: You worked in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The UK saw a lot of high-profile convictions that were later overturned by DNA tests. Now you train with the PEACE method for interrogation. How does it work?
JONATHAN DAVISON: The main objective we’re looking at, how interviews are conducted and the ethos behind it being that the interviewing of witnesses, victims and suspects was to obtain a complete accurate reliable information to discover the truth (about) what’s under investigation, rather than being a confession-based approach.
DAVISON: We’re approaching the interview with an investigative mindset and training people to have an investigative mindset where accounts that are obtained from people being interviewed are always tested against what the interviewer already knows and can reasonably establish from their investigations. Some of the misconceptions about PEACE about it being a bit soft or a more conversational approach – we can be robust within the interviews. We’re free to ask a range of questions in order to obtain information that will assist the investigation. We’ll recognize the positive impact of early admissions within the criminal justice system and also investigators are not bound to accept the first answer that’s given. We can be persistent in terms of complete reliable information.
Full story at WESA.
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