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Setting the record straight on the Reid Technique

The Reid Technique of interviewing and interrogation is supported by the courts


If the investigator follows the core principles of the Reid Technique, they will be acting in full compliance with the law and judicial guidelines.

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Having utilized and instructed the Reid Technique of interviewing and interrogating for over 45 years, this process when properly applied always treats suspects with decency and respect and follows all legally acceptable guidelines.

Unfortunately, we have seen several instances in which investigators have claimed or even testified they utilized the Reid Technique when in reality many of them have not even attended a Reid program. They fail to follow the core principles of the Reid Technique:

  • Do not make promises of leniency
  • Do not threaten the subject with any physical harm or inevitable consequences
  • Do not conduct interrogations for an excessively lengthy period of time
  • Do not deny the subject any of their rights
  • Do not deny the subject the opportunity to satisfy their physical needs
  • Do withhold information about the details of the crime from the subject so that if the subject confesses the disclosure of that information, it can be used to confirm the authenticity of the statement
  • Do follow all Miranda requirements
  • Do exercise special cautions when questioning juveniles or individuals with mental or psychological impairments
  • Always treat the subject with dignity and respect

I conduct about 30 four-day Reid training programs each year, some of which are in other countries. At the beginning of my instruction, I state to the participants, “If there is anything during this instruction that you find offensive, illegal, or unethical please bring it to my attention.” To date, no attendees have done so. Why? Because they saw firsthand that the Reid process follows the letter of the law.

Recently, I presented the Reid program in Oslo, Norway and started the instruction with the same statement: “If during the program, you find anything improper or illegal in any manner, please bring it to my attention.” Interestingly, none of the government attendees challenged the process, seeing firsthand how to properly conduct the Reid non-accusatory interview followed by the Reid Nine Steps that are designed to develop, in a completely legal manner, the truth from the deceptive individual. Also discussed were improper interrogation practices that we teach not to do (such as not conducting a non-accusatory interview, providing the subject with details of the crime, making threats, making promises of leniency, etc.). Those discussions appeared to clear up any previous misconceptions some of the participants may have harbored as a result of misinformation that they had heard about the Reid process.

Anyone who has been trained by Reid instructors understands that the process strictly follows legally acceptable guidelines. Following the four-day program in Norway, I received interesting comments. Several of the individuals stated that they have heard disparaging comments about the process, but those were from individuals who had never attended a Reid training program. At the conclusion of the program, the group unanimously agreed the process will be very helpful in their efforts to resolve investigations, asking us to return to train other investigators that did not have the opportunity to attend the first program.

In State v. Jackson, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision to suppress a confession because of threats and promises. The Defendant suggested that the detectives’ interrogation tactics followed the method that is generally known as the “Reid technique,” citing, among other sources, Saul Kassin’s “Police Induced Confessions: Risk Factors and Recommendations.” Kassin’s description of the Reid process is “a technique that involves isolating a suspect in a small room to increase anxiety; confronting the suspect with accusations of guilt and emphasizing the strength of the evidence against the suspect; offering sympathy and justifications or rationalizations to allow the suspect to minimize the crime; and encouraging the suspect to see confession as a means of terminating the interview.”

In their decision, the Oregon Supreme Court indicated that the Reid Technique is not coercive, and as with all strategies to develop information from a suspect, must be viewed in the context of the “totality of circumstances,” stating that, “We do not suggest that the use of the Reid technique or other strategies to obtain information from a suspect is necessarily coercive…The question that the trial court must decide is not whether a particular interrogation method was used, but whether, considering the totality of the circumstances, the suspect’s will was overborne.”

If the investigator follows the core principles of the Reid Technique as outlined above, they will be acting in full compliance with the law and judicial guidelines.

Louis C. Senese is VP of John E. Reid and Associates and has been employed for over 40 years. He’s conducted thousands of interrogations and volunteered assistance in cold cases. Listen to Lou interviewed on, podcast #4. He is the author of “Anatomy of Interrogation Themes” and has presented hundreds of specialized training programs to federal, state and local law enforcement, military, federal and NATO intelligence agencies. He has taught throughout the U.S., as well as in Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and the U.A.E. Contact him at