GOOD COP / BAD COP

Good cop / Bad cop, known in British military as Mutt and Jeff, is a psychological tactic used for interrogation. It is also called joint questioning friend and foe which involves a team of two interrogators who take blatantly opposing approaches to the subject. The interrogators may interview the subject alternately or may confront the subject at the same time. The ‘bad cop’ takes an aggressively negative stance towards the subject; making bold accusations, contemptuous remarks/insulting comments, intimidation, threats, and creating antipathy in general towards the subject. This, in return, sets the stage for the ‘good cop’ to act sympathetically; being encouraging, understanding, and supportive for the subject. The good cop will defend the subject from the bad cop until the subject may feel the needs to cooperate with the good cop, hence, seeking for protection and decide to trust the good cop by spilling out all the information needed.

Perhaps, it has become customary for a subject to testify falsely against other subjects under the good cop/bad cop "duress/coercion", only to revoke the testimony at a later point when the psychological stress is no longer there. The technique, by far, is useful against subjects who are young frightened or naïve in particular. However, if the subjects are fully aware of the attempted manipulation, they may try to close down or disrupt the whole procedure on purpose. Owing to this, experienced interrogators will conduct preliminary assessment on the subject’s level of intelligence and personal background prior to its implementation.

Meanwhile, there are various countermeasures available which can disrupt the tactic or cause it to backfire. An experienced subject, for instance, may opt to purposely bait the ‘bad cop’ with provocative attitudes such as giving insulting comments about the bad cop’s racial ethnic, family, gender slurs, offensive gestures, and so forth – hoping that the bad cop will lose self-control or react violently towards the subject. If we look at from a legal aspect, most liberal democracies expect the utmost professionalism from law enforcement regulators. Therefore, any physical abuse towards a subject during interrogation in the absence of bona fide physical provocation could compromise the prosecution case and/or lead to civil as well as criminal legal consequences for interrogators.

Lastly, the type of severe verbal abuse or otherwise derogatory behavior targeted at ‘good cop’ has proven to be highly disruptive on certain occasions. It is a common dramatic technique in American cinema where the bad cop often goes beyond legal attitude.


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