Ethical Approach in Interviewing and Interrogation

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Ethical Approach in Interviewing and Interrogation Free Essay

Strengthening of law is the basic concept of law enforcement. It requires high moral performers who understand the significance of aligning their activities with the rules of conventional morality and psychology. The increasing importance of moral philosophy is currently causing a rise in the value of forensic investigative ethics. Interviewing and interrogation techniques, as one of the most important fields of Criminal Justice, should be an organic unity of law and morality as the Criminal Justice is especially deeply involved in this area.

Current Ethical Dilemmas and Ways of Affecting the Field of Criminal Justice

In 1931, a report by the National Commission on Law Enforcement, which had been established by President Hoover, stated that some methods of interrogation were commonly used, including several ethical dilemmas that are still relevant. First, it is the use of inappropriate physical methods of torture: punishment, beatings, sleep and food deprivation of suspects (Walker & Boehm, n.d.). Second, it is the psychological practices of aggressive interrogation.

The first dilemma causes the frequent occurrence of false confessions. Even in the cases of a crime with a high level of responsibility, such as terrorism, which can result in the death of civilian population, the number of untrue admissions of guilt is increasing. It is going to continue rising if the tendency stays the same. The people that are suspected of such crimes and experience the unethical physical methods of punishment can choose to confess and stop the actions of the interrogator. In this case, the initial purpose of Criminal Justice becomes contorted, as its goal is to introduce changes in the society. If it helps convict the innocent, it cannot achieve this aim.

Another unethical psychological approach is common ̶ the Reid Technique (Walker & Boehm, n.d.). The Reid Technique presents the second moral dilemma. It is based on psychology: the investigator behaves like a hunter stalking his prey. The primary purpose of the approach is to receive the confession of guilt for proving it in court (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). It is unethical, as the presumption of innocence during such an interrogation does not work; the investigators behave based on the concept of bluff, convincing the suspect they already have evidence of guilt (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). The situation results in another ethical problem: such aggressive tactics often lead to a private deal before the jury verdict. It also affects Criminal Justice, as the person can be frightened in the process of interrogation. For example, in court, he or she can be afraid that the jury will appoint a stricter punishment, that the evidence is doubtful, etc. Thus, the fear of suspected person may lead to his or her desire to make a deal instead of relying on the perfect work of Criminal Justice.

Ethical Approach to Solving Dilemmas of Interviewing and Interrogating Terrorists

In 2009, with the uprising of terrorist activities, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) was established to improve the effectiveness of interrogation techniques applied to the most dangerous terrorists to increase the success of the questioning (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). It led to the changes in the situation and the development of non-violent methods. Investigators were engaged in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was accused of organizing a terrorist attack during the Boston Marathon, and Faisal Shahzad, who was convicted for an attempted terrorist attack in Times Square. HIG could have used the tactics described above; however, it preferred the establishment of relations with the suspects as one of the most important elements of interrogation (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). In 2014, it was confirmed that the process used by the British investigators, the so-called PEACE (the acronym for Planning and preparation, Engage and explain, Account, Closure, and Evaluation), was much more effective than the approach based on oppressive interrogation (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). PEACE implies that the investigator provides the suspect with the opportunity to speak out without using destructive psychological pressure (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.).

Ethical Approach: Opinion of the Writer and Personal Perspective

The author of the paper supports the ethical approach to interviewing and interrogating, especially regarding cases that involve terrorist suspects, due to its success. Additional research of the respective results shows that this method is more effective because of the decreased likelihood of obtaining a false confession of an innocent person. According to 60 scientific studies conducted by HIG, creating the right atmosphere during the interrogation is exceptionally valuable (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). It turns out that if a person sits in a large room with windows and holds a mug with a hot drink, he or she tends to give more information because the situation facilitates this action. The more the suspected person says, the higher is the chance to catch an error in his or her speech, which can uncover the truth (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.).

It is the new approach to interrogation: investigators invite the suspected person for a meeting in any public place (for example, hotel), and give him or her the opportunity to talk. At the same time, their colleagues record the conversation. After the meeting, the investigators need to calculate all the inconsistencies in the conversation (Kolker, 2016). In 2014, according to this scenario, Tim Marcia of the LAPD and his partner Greg Stearns successfully solved the complicated case of the murder of Hervey Medellin (Kolker, 2016). However, the writer of the paper highlights that the further expansion of the approach is possible only in case of compliance with the ethical standards of conduct for an investigator and during the interrogation of a person suspected of terrorism. These ethical standards require not only mastering a certain amount of specialized knowledge and skills but also high moral behavior. Moral principles require the combination of interrogation activities of the investigator to obtain a truthful testimony and respect for the suspected individual (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). It implies certain conditions for the individual investigator (the investigator or other persons conducting the interrogation): on the one hand ̶ perseverance and initiative in achieving the goal, ability to make responsible decisions; on the other ̶ objectivity, sociability, friendliness. Such an approach can encourage correct application of Criminal Justice.

There are other general ways in which solving such dilemmas can improve the field of Criminal Justice. For instance, Justice shows a legal obligation of the person to be responsible for committing a socially dangerous act prohibited by the criminal law. This responsibility is provided by Criminal Justice and ensured by the coercive power of the state. Maintaining ethical standards at a high level can help improve the process of interrogating terrorists and terrorist suspects. This factor, in turn, can increase the quality of confessions, which shows the very essence of Criminal Justice (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). Establishing the guilt of terrorists makes them undergo the statutory limitation and deprivation of moral, material, and physical nature in the course of criminal proceedings in the case and serving the punishment (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.). Moreover, if the use of new practices and new ethical approach to interrogating terrorists and terrorist suspects comply with the ethical standards, Criminal Justice can embody condemnation of the socially dangerous person who committed a terrorist act expressed on behalf of the state in the conviction of the court. This fact, in turn, will strengthen the justice system.


The justice system is facing many ethical dilemmas, as among which are unethical physical techniques and aggressive psychological oppression. However, at the moment, the ethical approach to interviewing and interrogating has great potential as it allows increasing the quality of the confession of guilt. It, in turn, asserts the validity of Criminal Justice. Interviewing and interrogation techniques, as one of the most important fields of Criminal Justice, become more successful with the application of an ethical approach. It makes Criminal Justice an organic unity of law and morality.

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