Deception has been considered by law enforcement officers as effective compared to other methods of crime detection. It is a better way of eliciting vital information and evidences that could capture suspected criminals rather than the use of physical means. In fact, it has gain approval of the courts as a legal way of drawing out a confession. However, it is sad to know that at times, the law officers employ malicious detection strategies like hoaxes in order to catch criminals which can affect the credibility of the justice system. Hence, the use of deception to detect a crime is viewed as a paradox in trying to make a sort of scam to catch another scam. This paper explains if the use of deception is justified and ethical according to the code of ethics followed by law enforcement groups. It further explains why the courts have approved it, and lists down some ways to avoid it.
A lot of people may not be aware of it, but deception has been used for a long time by police investigators as a way of crime detection in criminal cases. Depending on the degree of crime committed by a suspect, they use three stages of deception process. These are investigation, interrogation and testimonial. In the investigation process, the suspected criminal is tricked in order to gather sufficient information and evidence that will lead to his arrest. Investigative deception is allowed to be performed by police officers by the justice system. They are even being trained to employ this method in catching criminals easily. One way to do this is to hire informers, or they even act as deceptive members of the gang to catch them “red handed”. This is especially true when the case at hand is associated with confiscation of illegal drugs or smuggled goods. In the point of view of the justice system, the criminal degree of arresting a person possessing an illegal drug is just the same as the criminal degree of catching a person who sells an illegal drug. Interrogation involves psychological approaches that enable a law officer to entrap a suspect in admitting a crime. During the investigative process, deception is allowed, but during interrogation, it is less tolerated and rarely accepted by the court as a credible testimony. In the case of testimonials revealed during court hearings, they are done under oath, so, the assumption is that every individual who is examined and issues a testimony in court is presumably telling the truth, and there is no other statement that should be forged or falsified.
When a law enforcement officer is being held to tell lies in court, he could still claim that his action is justified based on a legal arrangement. An example of this is when the officer is standing to witness for the prosecution, and not being considered as a defendant in the case. However, he’s still required by the rules of court to tell the truth when he’s being examined under oath. A good example of this is the statement made by Johnnie Cochran in the case of O.J. Simpson vs. the State of California. He advised the jury what they should perceive about the testimony of Detective Vannaters. He said that the officer can’t be trusted at all. If he was lying from the beginning of the case, then, he should be lying even at the end.
Is it ethical to lie to obtain the truth? Do the ends justify the means? In general, nothing is unethical in pursuit of the truth to catch a criminal through the use of deceptive methods. This is a better way for the police to get evidences that can establish the guilt of a suspected criminal beyond reasonable doubt so that there is no need for a confession. The ends can justify the means only if there is no use of coercion and physical tactics. While smart defense attorneys have the ability to find all types of faults through a confession, advising the jury of lies committed by the police to their client to get confession may jeopardize the case in the minds of some jurors. This can also affect the ethical standard of the prosecution attorney, and may result in bias for the jury if they judge in favor of the prosecution. However, it is a fact that courts have ruled consistently that lying police officers could not be held as an impediment in obtaining the confession of an accused. You may even be surprised to know that police officers are also permitted to fabricate evidence in support of a deception made. In DAS 391, 255, (D.C. App. 1978), it has been noted that the police tried to pretend by comparing the defendant’s fingerprints to a fingerprint found on the victim’s checkbook, and declared that they were matched. However in truth, it was discovered that there were no fingerprints on the checkbook. The case resulted to the defendant confessing himself to the robbery, while the Court adjudicated that the deception made by the police did not at all invalidate a confession made voluntarily.
When a crime has been committed, the law enforcement groups are tasked to perform their jobs by investigating and analyzing the events that took place. Why and how the crime was committed are parts of the investigation process aside from collection of evidence from the crime scene. Then, identification and interrogation of suspects including witnesses follow. It’s here that police officers find it necessary to employ deceptive tactics as they see fit.
Is there a conflict between the code of ethics, and how law enforcement is really conducted? Based on the code of ethics of law enforcement nationwide, all personnel have fundamental duties to serve mankind, safeguard people and property, protect women and children, the innocent and peaceful individuals of the country, and respect the constitutional rights of all citizens. Therefore, interrogators should respect and protect the rights of suspected criminals, criminals, interested parties and victims. The code of ethics further states that law enforcement officers must be honest in all things that they do, follow the law, and maintain full confidentiality of classified materials and cases. However, the code of ethics also requires that criminals should be pursued and prosecuted vigorously by all means except for coercion and physical methods, in a courteous manner. This is now a clear show of conflict between the code of ethics followed by law enforcement groups, and the way they conduct their duties. But since what they do is legal as provided for by the US Supreme Court ruling, the police can use deception to extract a confession from a suspect as in Frazier vs. Cupp, (1969). It is only in the court where a police officer cannot tell lie while he is testifying under oath. Yet, even if they have issued sworn statements, defense attorneys have occasionally caught officers lying even if they are on the witness stand. Under Miranda vs. Arizona, US 436, police are required to declare your Constitutional rights while you’re being placed under arrest, interrogated and under their custody.
What role do physical behavior and nonverbal communication play in detecting deception? Here, it is the other way around where the suspect is being detected for deception. These methods play an important role in crime detection especially if they can obtain vital information from the relatives of the suspect, and their full cooperation in solving a crime. Deceptive methods of detecting a crime do not have to be done verbally; deception can also be detected through physical behavior and nonverbal communication. They include several ways like avoidance, being secretive, lack of interest and physical affection. You’ll notice that the person is avoiding direct eye contact when interrogated. These actions can give a hint to the interrogating officer if a person is lying about something. Let’s say that the subject is a spouse, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, he/she will advise you of working later. All of a sudden, you’ll find that their social calendar is fully booked and their free time becomes hard to come by. Once you press them for direct and immediate contact, you can be sure that they will react in anger and avoid you. Avoidance is the simplest and easiest way to become deceptive on a direct level. It is the easiest way to stay away from issues and postpone dealing with the case at hand even though they know that they are guilty. With regard to being secretive, a very noticeable detection of non-verbal deception is sudden show of secrecy, but this is mostly perceived by people who are close to the suspect. They will notice that the subject becomes suddenly aloof and secretive to anyone and starts hiding things that he didn’t normally do. This could involve bills or receipts that he doesn't want others to see. It could also be on the internet where he hides his emails, and changes his password as well as on his cell phone. It is also possible that he has moved the items that he usually kept in a particular location, or has locked a room and restricted anyone from entering it.
Detecting physical behavior and nonverbal deception may take some time to discover on the part of the law enforcement, unless the family of the suspect will cooperate with the authority. However in general, it is likely that whatever is found by a member of the family will take a lot of time and consensus before bringing the matter to the police. With regard to lack of interest and physical affection, this is again under the jurisdiction of family members especially the spouse. A common case is when someone is having an affair with another person. The guilt of the unfaithful person results to rejection of the spouse physically. This can be a show of no interest at all in whatever subject the other person is talking about, lack of affection, or lack of focus. If the person was interesting to deal with before and showed transparent love to his spouse, but suddenly he becomes cold and inattentive, then, something is wrong with him. This is an obvious act of sudden change in physical behavior and nonverbal communication that can happen to an individual who has committed an unlawful act. Detecting deception through physical behavior and nonverbal communication could be easier than other methods of crime detection only if the relatives of the suspect are willing to inform the law enforcement agency, and present the person involved.
Conclusion: While deception is viewed by some people as unethical that can undermine public confidence and may have the consequence of convicting innocent people, it is allowed by the court. Confessions are not considered as invalid or inadmissible, even if deception or trickery has been utilized to obtain them so long as the means used is not meant to make a false statement. It is only if the suspect or defendant has been coerced to confess that the confession is deemed inadmissible by the court. Police tactics to obtain confessions are permitted by the court because it is assumed that no innocent person with normal intelligence will ever admit to a crime he did not commit. However, since the Court also recognizes the inherent coercive nature how police officers interrogate, it has mandated the police to give suspects and defendants “Miranda” warnings whereby they have the “right to remain silent” to mitigate such coercion, especially in the case of juveniles. For this reason, it is advisable to get the services of an expert criminal defense attorney prior to the interrogation process, or before a charge is filed in court so that he can speak on behalf of his client.
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