INVESTIGATION INTO POLICE OFFICERS' PERCEPTIONS OF THE IMPORTANCE OF A CONFESSION
Cherryman, J. and Vrij, A., University of Portsmouth
Prior to the 1980's there seems little doubt that a main aim of police investigative interviews with suspects was to obtain a confession. However, more recent psychological research on false confessions has revealed that some suspects may be led falsely to confess. Given that the implications of this research are now being made available to police interviewers how do they now perceive the importance of confessions? This paper aims to determine whether there is evidence of there still being a confession culture within the police. In two related studies police officers who regularly conduct investigative interviews with suspects (study one) and police officers who supervise or train investigative interviewing (study two) evaluated the quality of six target interviews (three of which contained a confession and three did not) on 27 dimensions and for overall skill. Supporting the first hypothesis, officers who regularly conduct investigative interviews with suspects evaluated the interviews that contained a confession as being significantly more skilled than those containing no confession. This was not the case for the police supervisors/ trainers of investigative interviewing (study two) rejecting the second hypothesis. The confession culture seems still to exist amongst those who conduct investigative interviewing. As investigative interviews begin to be examined for quality dimensions other than whether a confession was achieved, officers may be praised for these other qualities. This may, in turn, encourage a shift in officers' perceptions regarding confessions.