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Examples of Good Cop Behavior – Manipulative, but OK?

The Gist of this Article: The “Good Cop / Bad Cop” technique often used by police has limitations, but this article lists out certain examples of such behavior that were found permissible and illegal, so it is good to know examples of such conduct that define the limitations of this common technique if one is trying to suppress a confession given in response to a good or bad cop’s comments.
Why is the “good cop, bad cop” tactic by police dangerous to a suspect?  Most people just observe this technique being used and congratulate themselves on recognizing it.  However, the real danger in this is a suspect providing a confession or admission in response to a good cop’s gentle questioning.  The statement may in fact be in reliance upon trust that the good cop will safeguard the secret, but such an expectation is truly foolish.

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The “good cop, bad cop,” routine, nonetheless, has its limits.  What are examples of behavior that are not considered illegal when a suspect later tries to suppress his statement as involuntary?

1.    An officer expressing his opinion that a judge and jury would give greater weight to a defendant’s remorse that to fear of punishment.  This was not found to be an illegal promise of leniency that made defendant’s statement involuntary.  Clark v. Murphy (9th Cir. 2003) 331 F.3d 1062, 1073.  This type of statement by police is not uncommon, so tell us our clients.

2.    A detective telling the suspect he needed more cooperation by telling a suspect that he “wanted the record to show defendant’s degree of cooperation was too brief and insubstantial."  This was not found by a judge to be an illegal inducement or some type of promise of a benefit for more cooperation.  People v. Musselwhite (1998) 17 Cal.4th 1216, 1237.

3.    Promising food and a soda to a suspect is not a sufficient inducement for the suspect’s statement to be involuntary.  People v. Hernandez (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 639, 650.

4.    Promising to request that the suspect be afforded protective custody housing was not enough of a promise to be considered an illegal inducement for the suspect’s statement to thereafter be considered involuntary.  People v. Massie (1998) 19 Cal.4th 550, 575.

5.    A statement by police to the suspect that there’s “no death penalty here” did not make the defendant’s subsequent statement involuntary under the totality of the circumstances.  People v. Benson (1990) 52 Cal.3d 754, 779.

6.    A statement by the detective to the suspect that “We’re talking about a death penalty case here” and suggesting that defendant might benefit from giving a truthful statement, if short statement of the crimes did not amount to an implied promise of leniency in exchange for a confession.  People v. Holloway (2004) 33 Cal.4th 96, 112.

However, sometimes a police officer simply goes too far and when the suspect then responds by giving a statement, a court will suppress the statement as involuntary.  These are some examples of that taking place:

1.    Police threatened the suspect with the death penalty if he did not confess. People v. Hinds (1984) 154 Cal.App.3d 222, 238;

2.    A police officer threatened a minor with the death penalty, called her a liar and promised leniency if she cooperated.  People v. McClary (1977) 20 Cal.3d 218, 229, overruled on other grounds in People v. Cahill, supra, at n17;

3.    Police officer threatened to inform the judge that the defendant was a liar. People v. Brommel (1961) 56 Cal.2d 629, 633, overruled on other grounds in People v. Cahill, supra, at n17;

4.    Police officer promised a reward if the suspect gave a statement. People v. Trout (1960) 54 Cal.App.2d 576, 583; overruled on other grounds in People v. Cahill, supra, at n17;

5.    Police officers promised defendant that they would “not charge him with anything,” he could have “his life,” and he could “go into the Marines” if he cooperated.  People v. Perez (2016) 243 Cal.App.4th 863, 876;

6.    Parole agent made statements that promised the defendant a more favorable parole report if he agreed to speak with detectives without counsel present. People v. Gonzalez (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 875, 883; and

7.    Police officer threatened to jail minor if he lied, but promised citation if he told the truth. In re J. Clyde K. (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 710, 716, disapproved on other grounds in People v. Badgett (1995) 10 Cal.4th 330, 349.

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