Why can’t you be nicer to me?

One of the few areas of difference between me and Batman is our treatment of prisoners. How would you expect police to treat suspects though? (Image from Warner Brothers)

“You don’t want to make him angry, I can’t control him when he gets angry”.

Okay, I’d not said those exact words but at some point during a recent prisoner interview our suspect, somewhat annoyed at having to answer questions about his arrest, asked me and my partner if we were doing the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine.

As I hope you’d have already guessed, I was accused of being the ‘good’ cop and whilst we were doing nothing of the sort, it did get me thinking just how should someone be treated post arrest?

During training we’re taught how best to structure interviews. We get shown how the tapes work, which forms we need to fill in and how to plan our interviews to get the most desirable result.

Whilst movies might suggest otherwise, we’re not taught how to ‘break a suspect down’, nor do we rip off our warrant cards, turn off the tapes and yell “It’s just you and me now, buddy!” in the hope that we’ll get a confession.

The key word is ‘interview’ – not interrogation.

Judging how best to deal with suspects post-arrest though can be very tricky – how would you expect, or indeed hope, that someone arrested for, say, pedophilia or murder, might be dealt with by police?

Would you feel comfortable with the use of the word ‘sir’ whilst the handcuffs go on? Some people may well hope that the same handcuffs are applied a little too tightly and heads ‘accidentally’ bump into car doors on the way back to the station.

It’s important to realise though that letting emotions take over in no way helps the investigation and furthermore that it’s the courts, not the police, that are responsible for deciding guilt and punishment.

This is where the job can get very difficult – how can officers maintain their professionalism when interviewing a suspect who they’ve witnessed an hour earlier viciously attacking someone outside a nightclub?

You can’t deny that the temptation might exist to bang fists on tables and start reenacting scenes from LA Confidential but when set against the wider scope of the investigation, allowing emotions to take over clearly wouldn’t help and this is why it doesn’t happen.

Arrests commonly take place so that we can interview suspects on tape – as guilty as they may appear it’s our job to gather all available evidence. When it comes to obtaining an account, winding up our suspect by claiming that their co accused has been ‘singing like a canary’ hardly helps.

Rather, in the long run dealing with prisoners with a little common courtesy, however ill deserved it may appear, is far more rewarding than any short term satisfaction that may come with rudeness.

For me this translates as an offer of a drink (hot chocolate with four sugars) when a suspect reaches the cell, an extra blanket or even one of Walsall Police Station’s famous ‘All Day Breakfasts’.

It’s no comment on us being ‘soft’ on suspects, rather it shows that we want to be in the best possible position to obtain the evidence that we need to prove – or disprove – someone’s guilt.

We’re all good cops, or at least we try the best we can – there’s no reason not to be.

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3 Responses to “Why can’t you be nicer to me?”

  1. 1 Joe 22/08/2012 at 08:36

    It’s really quite worrying that you don’t mention the old principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” This should be the beginning and end of the story. I wonder how often it is that you are in a position to personally be 100% certain about a suspect’s guilt at the moment of arrest. How do you know the guy apparently beating someone up outside the club wasn’t defending himself against an even more vicious attack from the supposed victim? Your suspects deserve courteous treatment because they are INNOCENT.

    • 2 daveincanada 24/08/2012 at 00:46

      ‘Your suspects deserve courteous treatment because they are INNOCENT.’ Most people arrested by the police deserve nothing of the kind. The fact that they get courteous treatment is largely down to the professionalism of the police.

  2. 3 PC Richard Stanley 22/08/2012 at 17:40

    There are times when from what we’ve observed we’ll know with a good deal of certainty that a person has committed an offence, I don’t disagree with you though that this shouldn’t affect their treatment post-arrest. It’s for the courts to decide on guilt and punishment.


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