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Police interrogation guidelines in England led to fairer trials and fewer false confessions

Prior to 1984, police interrogation in the UK was largely unregulated and false confession cases frequent.

The Chicago Police Department prohibits unnecessary sleep deprivation for interrogated suspects but does not define what that is.
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Your Tuesday editorial “Police interrogators need clear guidelines on when sleep deprivation amounts to torture” raised important points around the use of sleep deprivation, its effect on suspects and the need for clear legislation. The treatment of suspects in police custody has been under scrutiny in many countries for decades, and I thought your readers might be interested in the situation in the United Kingdom, where legislation has been in place for 35 years that covers this very point with no ill effects.

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Prior to 1984, police interrogation in the UK was largely unregulated and false confession cases frequent. This led to the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act across England and Wales. The legislation introduced maximum detention times for all suspects of 96 hours with court oversight after 24 hours, a minimum 8 hours rest within any 24 hours — free from questioning or other investigation process — respect for prayer and mealtimes, mandatory electronic recording of all interrogations, the presence of a lawyer and medical assessment upon arrest where necessary. The police have now operated effectively within these rules for more than three decades, and the transparency of the custody process forestalls issues raised by defense at trial which could otherwise suppress evidence. As a result, complaints about police treatment of suspects are rare and coerced false confession cases are unheard of.

This legislation was not the only factor in the improved police treatment of suspects. Over the subsequent years, training programs in ethical interrogation, investment in better forensic science and cultural change through leadership also have impacted corrupt practices such as those identified in the Sun-Times editorial. This is the wider issue that was not covered by your editorial; the legislation the editorial supports is not the only remedy to the types of abuse you highlight.

Andy Griffiths, Ph.D., a United Kingdom police detective and supervisor for 30 years, is a police training specialist who lives in Sussex, UK.

No mainstream leader supports looting

I have heard no significant political leader say that burning, looting and vandalism are acceptable behavior. There is broad agreement, in fact, that such behavior ought to be punished. Most protesters would probably say the same, knowing that these kinds of acts only hurts their cause. The idea that there is a constituency for such behavior is a vote-seeking canard that avoids the problem.

The problem is that President Trump will not recognize that there is another side of the issue and that this behavior, unacceptable as it is, has roots in legitimate outrage. Perhaps because of Trump’s background as a New York City real estate developer, property damage seems to resonate with him more than human damage does. During his visit to Kenosha, he said plenty about property damage, but nothing about the incident that started the unrest.

There are some problems that respond only to a swat upside the head, but I doubt that racial inequity is one of them. The situation will not be resolved by somebody who prioritizes being perceived as a tough guy.

Curt Fredrikson, Mokena