Modern Investigative Techniques Training for Public Security Bureau (PSB) Officers in China.
Investigative torture and forced confessions remain one of the most challenging human rights problems in the 21st century. International Bridges to Justice provides training to police officials on modern investigative techniques, emphasizing reliability of these techniques over physical coercion. In the process, officers learn about international human rights standards. The process creates a dialogue between police officials, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, effectively reducing torture.
Related publication: Bridges 2009, Annual Report of International Bridges to Justice
1. Can you briefly describe the innovation, the problem it tries to solve and why it is necessary?
International Bridges to Justice’s Modern Investigative Techniques (MIT) training provides police in China with the tools necessary to investigate cases without resorting to forced confessions or physical coercion. It also encourages greater cooperation between police, defense attorneys, and citizens through dialogue and rights awareness campaigns.
One of the goals of International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) is to assist transitional nations in the formulation of the rule of law. Even though China has been a nation for centuries, its modern criminal justice system was only created in 1979. In just 30 years China has made tremendous steps forward with its criminal justice system and has enacted many progressive laws. However, the implementation of those laws has been lacking. Because of the lack of full implementation of existing laws, confessions to crimes routinely come as the result of coercive and harsh interrogation techniques that lead to false or unreliable confessions.
If a criminal defense lawyer tries to properly investigate the case and inquire into the circumstances of the interrogation he may be subject to prosecution, loss of law license, and incarceration (see Article 306 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China and Article 38 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China) for simply trying to ensure that his client receives a fair trial.
By training police in these MIT skills and introducing them to the role of a defense attorney, the rights of both suspects and accused can be better protected.
2. What makes your innovation unique?
IBJ recognized that in order to be successful and widely adopted, MIT had to have legitimacy from within China. To do this, IBJ used local experts (Chinese police as well as Chinese Professors ) along side of internationally respected law enforcement agents (former Federal Bureau of Investigation agents) with real experience in utilizing interrogation techniques without torture that have proven to be successful.
Our innovation is unique in that it works directly with the individuals who have the ultimate control over how a suspect is treated. Each investigating police officer who stops using brutal interrogation techniques will positively affect the life and dignity of the persons he or she investigates. Also, by bringing defense attorneys and police together, the program fosters solidarity and respect between judicial actors, facilitating cooperation and grass roots problem-solving.
3. What triggered the development of the innovation?
The innovation was triggered both by the realization of the need for such training, as well as the opportunity offered to IBJ to conduct this work. IBJ was originally approached by a group of academics involved in police training, headed by Professor Zhang Pinze of the China Public Security University. IBJ was asked to assist with the training of police officers by their trainers to begin to change the culture of the Public Security Bureau.
4. Which persons and organisations were involved in the development and what role did they play?
This project is the combined effort of IBJ, the Ford Foundation, and our local partners, in particular Professor Zhang Pinze. Ford supported the program financially, while IBJ organized the curriculum and delivery of the trainings in cooperation with Professor Zhang.
5. What kind of resistance have you encountered and how have you overcome it?
There is always resistance to change, particularly when it involves changing long-entrenched methods of doing things. Instead of criticizing China’s record of torture, IBJ’s strategy is to offer Chinese police better methods for discovering the truth and fighting crime.
6. How did you make the goals realistic and attainable, and at what time will which quick wins be available?
IBJ’s goals for this project were not to eliminate torture overnight. Instead, IBJ aims to change the culture of investigating police in China one district at a time through these trainings, using new media technology to reach the widest possible audience. Fortunately, there have already been quick gains. Just a few months following one of our trainings, local police in that district volunteered to take part in a rights-awareness campaign where they distributed brochures to community members encouraging defendants and their families to obtain a lawyer if they are detained. This demonstrates a strong public commitment on the part of these police to the rule of law.
7. Will the innovation have an effect on other organisations in the chain and if that is the case, how will it affect them?
This innovation has a positive effect on the entire judicial system. Suspects are treated with greater dignity, new investigative tools provide for better crime solving, judges are given better evidence to assess, and society benefits from a safer environment. At the same time, legal aid centers and defense attorneys will find it easier to cooperate with the police.
8. How was the development funded and what were reasons for the financing organisation?
The project was funded by the Ford Foundation, whose strategy for change “is to encourage initiatives by those living and working closest to where problems are located.” Here, the investigating police are the people with direct control over the treatment of suspects.
9. Can you name 3 to 5 characteristics of the innovation that are most essential to making it work?
Local partnerships, universal norms, and optimistic enthusiasm are the three qualities essential to making this project work.
- Local partners, including local trainers and the trainees, are invaluable because only they truly grasp the local context, and they are the ones who will be implementing the skills learned.
- The utilization of universal norms, such as the right to be free from torture, is also important. While the local laws may change, these overarching concepts transcend time and geographical boundaries.
- Finally, optimistic enthusiasm is necessary to keep the momentum going. The local partners and trainees must believe in these goals to both change their own practices and also encourage others to do the same.
10. How do you measure whether it is a successful innovation?
There is a range of factors that IBJ has used to assess the project. These include trainees’ responses through surveys concerning the value of the trainings, the number of trainees that then go on to contribute to the rule of law in measurable ways, such as taking part in rights-awareness campaigns, and the desire on the part of both local trainers and trainees to continue the project as well as to expand it to new areas. Over longer periods of time, IBJ also keeps track of general trends reported with regard to police abuses in China. Specific statistics are unfortunately not possible to obtain.
11. How many people or organisations benefit from this innovation now?
During the first phase of the project, IBJ was able to directly train 2,250 police officers. The first training was of 200 officers at Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia. The second training was of 2,000 officers in Liaocheng, Shandong Province. At the second training, 200 officers participated in the main session, which was then simulcast to another 1,800 officers. The third training took place in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, where we trained 50 senior detectives focusing primarily on appropriate interrogation techniques.
During our rights campaign, 500 citizens in Liaoning received copies of rights information. In addition, there will be countless suspects who will benefit from improved investigative techniques.
12. How many people or organisations could potentially benefit from this innovation today and in the future? (scaling-up)
Thousands of police officers and tens of thousands of future suspects stand to benefit from scaling up this project.
13. Can you quantify the financial benefits? (Cost savings, additional income or otherwise)
Teaching these investigative skills saves criminal justice systems money over time by delivering more efficient crime-solving skills.
14. Is the innovation financially viable and sustainable and if yes, how?
The project is sustainable to the extent that local trainees and trainers are able to take what they have learned and share their experiences with other police officers and public safety officials. It is financially viable as these trainings cost relatively little compared to the rights at stake.
15. Can or will the innovation be used internationally and how will you overcome cultural differences?
IBJ has programs across Asia and Africa, and training police is a positive tool that can be used in all countries. In each country, we combine international and national trainers to help overcome cultural differences and respond to unique local situations.
16. What lessons did you learn along the way that could be useful to others?
IBJ has learned that it is important to work together with many partners and to bring different stakeholders to the table to learn from each other. The most important thing is to help people understand why the protection of rights benefits all. Here, protecting the rights of suspects is not only the right thing to do, but also beneficial to ascertaining the truth.