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Police Suspect Interviewing: A Self-Report Survey of Police Practices and Beliefs in Europe

Conference contribution
Authors Jenny Schell-Leugers
Miet Vanderhallen
Renate Volbert
Sara Landström
Trond Myklebust
Jaume Masip
Lara Gil Jung
Saul Kassin
Published in The 12th Annual Conference of the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG), Stavern, Norway
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords suspect interrogation, suspect interview, police practice, deception detection, interrogation techniques, confession rates, beliefs
Subject categories Applied Psychology


On a daily basis, thousands of suspects all around the world are interviewed. While police detectives are trying to find out whether a suspect has been involved in a crime, suspects often feel intimidated during an interrogation, especially those who are innocent. In recent years, the detection of wrongful convictions in America, often with DNA evidence, has highlighted the impact of coercive interrogation techniques on innocent suspects. However, police interrogations are vital to the process of solving crimes and serving justice. To get a better picture in how far common police practices can play a role in wrongful convictions, Kassin and colleagues (2007) surveyed 631 North American police investigators to examine their interrogation beliefs and practices. They constructed a questionnaire in which the participants, were asked to report on six topics: deception detection, Miranda warnings, interrogation techniques, interviews and interrogations, confession rates, and the recording of interrogations. The findings from this survey gave insight into what happens in North American interrogation rooms. To the best of our knowledge, no previous study has examined the beliefs and practices of European police investigators. It is important to note that many European countries operate under an inquisitorial legal system and that suspect interviews have shifted from a more accusatorial towards an information gathering approach in recent years. Furthermore, the Salduz ruling resulted in reformed procedures concerning legal assistance during interrogations, which may had an impact on interrogation practices as well. However, little is known about what actually happens in interrogations in Europe. In an effort to better understand how experienced investigators in different European countries approach the processes of interviewing and interrogation, we are seeking to replicate the self-report survey of North American police practices and beliefs by Kassin and colleagues (2007). We are employing an adapted version of their instrument, covering investigators’ beliefs and practices about 1) their ability to detect truth and deception, 2) suspects’ willingness to talk to the police, 3) the use of various interrogation techniques, 4) the frequency and length of interviews and interrogations, 5) the rates of true and false confessions, and 6) their own practices and opinions with regard to the recording of interrogations and confessions. Our goal is to explore and compare police practices and beliefs in six European countries (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden), and to compare – where possible - the data collected in this sample to those previously obtained in North America. The potential benefits of the study are important for questions pertaining to investigators’ self-reported interrogation practices, beliefs and perceptions. We believe that the potential benefit of the proposed research is substantial. It will aid to gain knowledge about common practices used by investigators and the results might help with reforming certain police practices.

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