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?