DPS training manual- Investigative Hypnosis?

Today I received my new 841 page DPS general operations manual on CD. I thought I knew most of DPS’ crime investigation techniques. This section on hypnosis took me by surprise.

25 .05 .00 GENERAL
The use of hypnosis as an investigative tool for law enforcement is
a fairly recent development. Although it was used for this purpose
at various times, there was no concentrated effort to develop it as
a practicable working tool until about 1970 when the use of hypnosis
in several major cases by the Los Angeles Police Department
caused a number of other police agencies to examine the possibility
of such use . Currently many major police agencies are using
hypnosis to some degree in criminal cases.

05 .02 These guidelines are designed to outline the criteria to be
used in the selection and training of DPS personnel to use hypnosis
and the use of hypnosis by Department personnel .

There are further sections on how to run the hypnosis session, and who not to hypnotize (those with health conditions, and the defendant), and the various hypnotism related reports that are required. I will probably request the Hypnosis Oversight and Training Committee’s reports to see if this program is actually in use.

My lay opinion is that hypnosis is quackery. However, if DPS officers are being instructed to consider hypnotizing witnesses I’ll have to keep my cynicism in check and do some research.

Assuming hypnosis is real couldn’t the hypnotist DPS officer influence the outcome. Isn’t that the point of hypnosis? To make people quit smoking, lose weight, or otherwise influence their behavior?

Finally, the rule of evidence require that witnesses can only testify if they have “personal knowledge.” Hypnosis would seem to stretch the limits of that definition to absurdity.

What do you think? Is this a valid crime fighting tool? Should we hypnotize witnesses?

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8 responses to “DPS training manual- Investigative Hypnosis?”

  1. Alien says:

    What I understand about hypnosis indicates that the person being hypnotized voluntarily enters a state of heightened suggestibility. I have read reports about the person being hypnotized flat out making up stuff to “please” the hypnotist. I find it hard to believe that anything of sufficient reliability for direct use in court proceedings could be obtained.

    On the other hand, if the police obtained information from hypnosis that led to a piece of evidence that was damning even without the information from hypnosis (ie leads to the dead body, murder weapon, etc) then that might be useful.

  2. Mark Bennet says:

    Approach with extreme caution. Witnesses who have been hypnotized may not remember more accurately, but they appear to juries to remember more accurately.

  3. Mark Bennet says:

    From “Trance on Trial” at 157: “The relived memories may contain a mixture of fantasies, personal reactions, and the actual events. There is no evidence that the investigator can reliably distinguish among these.”

  4. Mark Bennet says:

    Texas case on admissibility of hypnotically-enhanced testimony: Zani v. State, 758 S.W.2d 233 (CCA 1988) (pre-Daubert / Kelly)

  5. Give it a year or two, and some local DA will get the bright idea of getting a search warrant for an involuntary hypnosis.

    Blood, DNA, memories – What’s the substantial difference?


  6. Patrick says:

    I not sure there is such a thing as involuntary hypnosis. Relaxation is a prerequisite, and you can’t force someone to relax unless you pump them full of drugs.

  7. There’s a paper floating around [PDF, 935 KB] alleging that Barack Obama is hypnotizing his followers using the techniques of “Neurolinguistic programming”, aka NLP.

  8. bryan simmons says:

    I was fortunate enough to ‘acquire’ one of those manuals recently. Needless to say–it has been most instructive in my dealings with DPS. I was curiously shocked to see the section on hypnotism, too. According to my sources that department is a strange little group of D&D player types who get a lot of hassle from the usual fascist, Johnny Law type that inhabits that building. You can spot them because they’re the goths in DPS HQ.

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