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Good cop/bad cop, known in British military circles as Mutt and Jeff (from an American newspaper comic strip of that name) and also called joint questioning and friend and foe, is a psychological tactic used for interrogation.
'Good cop/bad cop' tactics involves a team of two interrogators who take apparently 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 aggressive, negative stance towards the subject, making blatant accusations, derogatory comments, threats, and in general creating antipathy between the subject and himself. This sets the stage for the 'good cop' to act sympathetically: appearing supportive, understanding, in general showing sympathy for the subject. The good cop will also defend the subject from the bad cop. The subject may feel he can cooperate with the good cop out of trust and/or fear of the bad cop. He may then seek protection by and trust the good cop and tell him the needed information.
It is not uncommon for a subject to testify falsely against other subjects under the good-cop/bad-cop duress, only to recant the testimony at a later point when the psychological stress is no longer present.
The technique is especially useful against subjects who are young, frightened, or naïve. Using the technique on those familiar with it may still cause an instinctive psychological response. However, as they are aware of the attempted manipulation, they may just close-down entirely or try to disrupt the procedure (see below). Experienced interrogators assess the subject's level of intelligence and experience with the technique prior to its application. There are various countermeasures available that can disrupt the tactic or cause it to backfire:
- An experienced subject may choose to deliberately bait the 'bad cop' with provocative behavior of his own short of violent provocation (derogatory remarks about the bad cop or his family, racial, ethnic and gender slurs if applicable, offensive gestures, etc.), hoping that the 'bad cop' will lose self-control and react violently towards the subject. Most liberal democracies expect the utmost professionalism from law enforcement personnel, so any physical violence towards a subject during interrogation in the absence of bona fide physical provocation could compromise the prosecution's case and/or lead to civil and/or criminal legal consequences for the interrogators.
- Severe verbal abuse or otherwise insulting behavior targeted at the 'good cop' has also proven highly disruptive on occasion.
It is a common dramatic technique in American cinema, where the bad cop often goes beyond legal behavior.
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