One communication technique that is seldom included in a police training program, but one that is often employed, is for an officer to simply lie to achieve a desired goal. For example, consider the officer who tells a potential combative suspect that he needs to place him in handcuffs only temporarily while completing some necessary paperwork, and that he will release him when he’s finished. Once the cuffs are secure however, the officer advises the suspect he is in fact under arrest. He lies to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Another example is the officer who advises an abusive husband that his wife does not wish to file a complaint, a lie, and then attempts to get him to admit that he struck her. Of course, once he does, then the husband is placed under arrest. And finally, consider the hostage-taker who gives up after he is informed by the responding officers that the prosecuting attorney has agreed to charge him only with a minor infraction, again, a lie intended to de-escalate the crisis and effect the safe release of the hostage.
The idea of the police lying seems repulsive to some, but to others, especially the police, it is a legitimate method for containing and de-escalating a crisis at times. Is it legal? Absolutely; however, there are limitations on the extent to which the police can lie. The courts have essentially ruled that intrinsic lies, or those lies that misrepresent a person’s connection to a crime in order to gain a confession, are acceptable. For example, telling a suspect that his car was observed by a witness at the scene of the crime, even if not true, is an acceptable intrinsic lie. Extrinsic lies, or those lies that may potentially distort a person’s ability to make a rational choice about confessing to a crime, are mostly not acceptable. For example, threatening to take a mother’s children from her unless she confesses to a crime would likely render the confession inadmissible due to its coercive nature. Some of the relevant court cases on police lying are as fo
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