Oregon Legislature Passes a Deception Bill that Prevents Police from Lying to Youth During Interrogations
In June, Oregon became the second state to pass a deception bill that prevents law enforcement from lying to people under the age of 18 during interrogations. The bill bans false promises of leniency and false claims about the existence of incriminating evidence, both commonly used as interrogation tactics. These tactics have played a role in about 30% of all wrongful convictions and significantly increase the risk of false confessions. Children under the age of 18 are two to three times more likely to falsely confess than adults as recent studies suggest.
This bill has been supported by law enforcement organizations such as the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association. This legislation was rooted in the work of the Oregon Innocence Project, The Center of Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, and the Oregon Innocence Project.
“Senate Bill 418 A expands on youth justice legislation I’ve worked on with this team in two previous legislative sessions; it requires law enforcement to tell the truth during interrogations,” said Senator Gorsek. “As a criminal justice educator and former police officer, this is a professional standard I teach and we have reliable data showing that untruthfulness used in interviews can lead to false confessions.”
This legislation passage would not have been possible without the participation of victims of deceptive interrogation methods. Two exonerated men, Huwe Burton and Martin Tankleff, testified in support of this legislation and helped convince lawmakers of the negative impacts of these interrogation methods.
Burton, who wrongfully spent 19 years in prison, said, “We have the opportunity to be on the right side of history. The world will watch as we set the stage for how our children are treated by those commissioned to protect them.”
Tankleff, who spent 17 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, said, “It’s my hope that with the passage of this legislation, young individuals will not suffer the type of interrogation tactics I and others have suffered. Passage of this legislation protects all, especially our community.”
Through this legislation, it encourages law enforcement members to adopt alternative interrogation methods, similar to those used in the United Kingdom where deceptive methods have been abandoned. These alternative interrogation methods have been proved to produce more reliable confessions.
“We know from hundreds of exonerations that false confessions contribute to wrongful convictions and research shows that youth are particularly susceptible to the use of deceptive interrogations tactics by police, which can lead to youth confessing to something they did not do,” said Zach Winston, policy director at the Oregon Innocence Project. “In addition, the data clearly demonstrates that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are more likely to falsely confess, for reasons that stem from their communities past experiences with police and how police treat them during an interrogation. This bill will protect Oregon youth from deceptive police interrogation tactics and make false confessions less likely to occur.”
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