SACRAMENTO – Legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would help train law enforcement officers in their criminal investigations and public interactions, ensuring they uphold civil rights and treat people with dignity and respect, cleared a key committee this week.
“Today we’ve taken an important step toward addressing how law enforcement is trained to interact with the public,” Sen. Dodd said. “People deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully by police officers. My bill ensures they will not have their rights trampled through demeaning or coercive tactics that can result in false confessions.”
Over the past 75 years, police have relied on a criminal interrogation strategy known as the Reid Technique, which relies heavily on assuming guilt, assessing behavioral clues of deception and administering psychological manipulation. However, studies have raised questions about the validity of the technique. A 2006 meta-analysis found the ability to correctly detect deception averaged only 54% — about the same chances as flipping a coin.
Of the more than 300 people exonerated in the U.S. through post-conviction DNA testing, more than a quarter had given false confessions, and experts say that Reid-style interrogations can produce these false confessions.
Senate Bill 494 would require the California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training to create and integrate officer training on interview techniques that are more ethical and effective at getting accurate information while avoiding false confessions. Further, it would require training to ensure everyday interactions with the public are civil.
SB 494 is supported by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and the California Innocence Coalition: Northern California Innocence Project, California Innocence Project, Loyola Project for The Innocent. The bill passed the Assembly Public Safety committee with unanimous support.
“SB 494 would require that the training outlined in the law be incorporated into the basic training courses for all California law enforcement officers and that the initial training be supported by periodic retrainings,” the California Innocence Coalition wrote in a support letter. “Enacting this law would promote a fair and effective criminal justice system by ensuring that law enforcement training and interviewing techniques safeguard the life, dignity, and liberty of all persons, without prejudice to anyone.”
“I’m grateful to Sen. Dodd for sponsoring this important measure that has garnered bipartisan support and will improve public safety and public relationships,” said Vern Pierson, El Dorado County district attorney. “Research has shown our law enforcement officers can better serve their communities when they are trained in science-based, ethical human engagement strategies.”
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.