Ask The Rabbi

Watching the Detectives

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Detectives Questioning Suspects

[Name and email Withheld] wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I am a New York City Police Detective in a South Bronx precinct. Part of my duties include "interview interrogation" of people who have been arrested for felonious (usually violent) crimes. Before this process I read the suspect his Miranda warnings, if the suspect agrees to talk to me I then attempt to obtain a written confession from him. I do this by feigning sympathy and understanding thereby gaining his confidence. I never make false promises, threats or use violence. The person usually leaves the room shaking my hand and thinking that I'm his friend. Basically what I am doing is misleading and disingenuous, although legal. Afterwards, although I have obtained a confession from a violent felon, I can't help but feel guilty, it's like I've gained someone's trust and betrayed them. Do you think that my guilt feelings are justified? (If you hear from any Israeli detectives with similar experiences I would enjoy corresponding with them.)


Dear [Name and email Withheld],

I've read your letter many times and each time I am struck by your extraordinary sensitivity.

There is absolutely no Halachic problem with building a relationship with someone in order to be able to right a wrong.

However, this is on condition that the suspect is neither promised something that you can't deliver, or coerced into making a confession.

Even if it is perfectly clear that he is guilty of a crime, it's forbidden to use physical force or verbal threats to have him admit it.

May Hashem grant you the ability to carry on with your important work and retain your acute sensitivity.


 
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