Skip to main content

Police Misconduct as it Relates to False Confessions

WHEREAS, law enforcement officers in the United States are legally permitted to lie about evidence to criminal suspects that they interrogate in pursuit of a confession; and

WHEREAS, law enforcement officers, upon gaining a confession from a criminal suspect, often close and classify investigations as "solved", disregarding exculpatory evidence-even in cases in which the confession is internally inconsistent, contradicted by external evidence, or the result of coercive interrogation; and

WHEREAS, many of the 367 wrongful 2019 convictions as of November 2019, have been overturned by DNA evidence in the United States involved some form of a false confession; and

WHEREAS, adult and adolescent suspects often lack the capacity to understand the consequences of waiving their rights, and are more likely to waive their rights because of their compromised reasoning ability (the result of exhaustion, stress, hunger, substance use, or mental limitations); and

WHEREAS, innocent men and women have falsely confessed to committing offenses due to fear that failure to confess will result in a harsher punishment; and

WHEREAS, confessions are powerful forms of evidence that jurors and others do not fully discount, even when they are considered coerced confessions; and

WHEREAS, jurors and other triers of fact struggle to distinguish between true and false confessions, in part because these statements, as seen in the confessions of defendants who were ultimately exonerated, typically contain precise and accurate details about the offense and victim that were not provided to the public; and

WHEREAS, interrogations that are videotaped provide an objective and accurate audio-visual record of the interrogation, in addition to improving transparency and creating an indisputable account of what happened during the interrogation; and

WHEREAS, in America over half the states and the District of Columbia require recording of certain custodial interrogations provided by statute or court action; and

WHEREAS, federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DEA and ATF, are required to record all custodial interrogations of individuals suspected of any federal crime.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls for the states to adopt legislation or court action requiring that custodial interrogations, involving serious and/or felony crimes, be recorded.

BE IT FURTHE RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocate that disciplinary action be required when it is determined that lying and deception by law enforcement officials has occurred during the interrogation process.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will transmit this Resolution to all federal and state legislators.