Press conference at the Capitol to ban deceptive police interrogation methods on youth

UCPD has been under criticism in recent years over budget increases. In Conn. the debate over policing continues after the rise in public awareness since George Floyd’s death. Photo by Shelagh Laverty/The Daily Campus

On Wednesday, March 8, a press conference was held at the state Capitol in support of a bill to end deceptive interrogation tactics on youth. The bill would make it illegal for police to lie to minors during interrogations or deny their mental and physical needs.  

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut released a statement after the press conference with more information about the bill. 

“S.B. 1071 would make a police interview with a person under the age of 18 unusable in court if the police interrogators knowingly used false ‘facts;’ false promises of leniency; threats, including threatening use of force; or denied the young person’s physical and/or mental health needs,” the ACLU of Connecticut said. 

The conference included Sen. Gary Winfield and Rep. Steven Stafstrom, co-chairs of the judiciary committee, in addition to people who experienced wrongful convictions as minors due to deceptive police interrogations, a national expert on interrogation tactics and representatives from Connecticut’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Innocence Project. 

Terrill Swift and Marty Tankleff both served time in prison after wrongful convictions as minors. Both were lied to in their interrogations in order to obtain confessions, and came to speak about their experiences at the press conference. 

“This is something that happens far too often and needs to stop. We are living in 2023. There is no need for any type of deception to be taking place by law enforcement,” Swift said. 

Tankleff, who is also a lawyer and professor at Georgetown University, spoke about his experience with police after he was accused of murdering his parents. According to Tankleff, police told him that his alibi did not check out and that they found incriminating evidence against him on the bodies, even though neither were true. 

“We know lying does not invoke truth. If it did, I wouldn’t have been in prison for almost 18 years, Terrill wouldn’t have been in prison for over 15 years, and countless others would not be going to prison,” Tankleff asserted. 

Christina Quaranta, executive director of the Connecticut Justice Alliance, brought up the figures related to the issue at the press conference. 

“At least 29% of CT’s wrongful convictions have involved false confessions, including people who were children at the time, when police decided to lie to them to coerce a false confession,” she said. 

Quaranta also cited the financial burden that these wrongful convictions place on the state. 

“If you don’t find yourself being moved or angered by the moral argument, look at the financial piece,” she said. “It has cost $37.5 million in compensation in Connecticut for wrongful conviction.” 

Mark Fallon, a national expert on police deceptive interrogation tactics, has worked in law enforcement for over three decades. He discussed the lack of scientific evidence behind deceptive interrogation tactics and general movement away from these methods in many agencies. 

“Coercive and deceptive practices have been rejected, and global interrogation reforms are underway. The federal law enforcement training centers have revamped their training curriculum and now only instruct in science-based methods,” Fallon said. 

According to Claudine Constant, public policy and advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, states like California, Utah, Oregon, Delaware and Illinois have already passed laws banning deceptive interrogation practices on youth. 

“No child should be in prison because police coerced them into a confession,” Constant said. “Youth should be safe and protected everywhere, especially when they are at their most vulnerable.” 

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