United Nations Torture Convention of 1984  
Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether
physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a
person for such purposes as obtaining from him or
a third person information or a confession,
punishing him for an act he or a third person has
committed or is suspected of having committed, or
intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for
any reason based on discrimination of any kind,
when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the
instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of
a public official or other person acting in an official
Torture (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
- This entry is in four parts. The first part
addresses the question what is torture?; the
second part, what is wrong with torture?; the third
part, is torture ever morally justifiable?; and the last
part, should torture ever be legalised or otherwise
This suspect is really bad news.  During the arrest,
the suspect resisted, and you used your Taser to
subdue the suspect, so you're surprised when the
suspect subsequently agrees to be interrogated.  
You have the suspect transported to your
department's robbery unit where detectives are
waiting to conduct an interrogation.  Since you're
new and eager to learn, you'd like to be present for
the interrogation, so you ask the lead detective for
permission to sit in and observe.  Since your
request is perfectly reasonable, you have no idea
what a big mistake you've just made.

The beginning of the interrogation goes along
routinely as the suspect is given his Miranda
warnings which he waives agreeing to answer
questions.  Even though you're inexperienced, it
soon becomes evident to you that this suspect
doesn't intend to admit to anything.  You're not all
that impressed with the obvious frustration being
displayed by the lead detective as the suspect
voices nothing but denials and useless banter.  By
the suspect's facial expressions, it's apparent that
he's pleased with himself as the lead detective
stands up and slowly walks around the table and
behind the suspect as he continues to ask
questions.  When the detective stops directly
behind the suspect, you notice a Taser in the
detective's hand.  Before you can interrupt what is
about to happen, the detective presses the Taser
against the suspect's shoulder and, "Zap!"  The
suspect goes flying off the chair and lands on the
floor in a seizure like state... okay, let's end the
scenario here.

You've just observed a detective – a police officer –
commit a criminal act, and an act of torture.  Now...
how should you feel, and what should you do?  

The first part of this question is easy.  You should
feel enraged; not because the detective tasered a
useless piece of humanity, but because he
committed a criminal act right in front of you, and
he expects you to be okay with it and – most
importantly – be part of the criminal act.

The second part of the question, what should you
do, is not that easy.  You could zap that detective
with your Taser and arrest him.  Actually, as the
scenario is described, your use of force and arrest
of the detective would be perfectly lawful.  The
detective committed a criminal assault in your
presence, and your use of force would be justified
to disarm him of his Taser.  While this course of
action would be legal, it wouldn't be advisable.  
What you definitely should do is put your handcuffs
back on your suspect and spirit him back to the
lock-up, or the point of the arrest process from
which you removed him for the interrogation.

Hopefully, you'll never have to experience anything
like the scenario describes, and you'll never have to
decide on any action or inaction to undertake
following such an event.  The best way for you to
avoid being compromised by those lacking integrity
or brains is to immediately begin to establish your
reputation for adherence to principled and lawful
conduct in everything you do.  Others will avoid
placing you in compromising situations when they
realize your low tolerance for stupid non-sense.   

As far as the limited use of what is commonly
referred to as aggressive or enhanced interrogation
techniques used against terrorists, I have no
problem with terrorists being subjected to the
enhanced versions as long as it's not police officers
doing the interrogations.  It shouldn't take you too
long to learn that liberty, justice, and survival is a
balancing act.  In a country where liberty and justice
is balanced better than most, the threat – and
indeed the realty – of terrorist acts of disastrous
proportions have placed survival squarely within the
balancing act.
"No matter how intelligence information is
obtained, its value will always be determined
by the means and methods available to verify
or discredit the information." ~ Barry M. Baker
While the United Nations may be one of the most
corrupt and inefficient organizations on the planet,
its definition of torture seems to be pretty
reasonable.  However, as long as terrorism remains
the focal point of anything, it's highly unlikely –
make that impossible – that any definition of torture
will be universally accepted to any reasonable

I think that anyone who looks at some of the
torture devices from centuries past can agree that
any interrogations involving their uses constituted
cruel, inhuman and depraved treatment inflicting
severe physical and mental pain and suffering.  
However, those devices are not the subject of
modern torture methods; even though, the most
discussed method, water-boarding, does date back
to the Spanish Inquisition.
A big part of the torture debate revolves around
the question, "Does torture work?"  A lot of time
and energy is wasted on this question since torture
obviously works.  If torture is applied to obtain a
confession, those applying the torture already know
what they want to hear.  American POW's during
the Viet Nam war were subjected to torture to
extract confessions of war crimes for political
propaganda dissemination.  There will always be
plenty of people, even Americans, who are eager to
believe the worst about their own.  Why do you
think Jane Fonda will be forever known as "Hanoi

Then, there's the quality of intelligence information
question.  This should be a no brainer, but some
people will never seem to understand the nature of
information regarding its timely relevance and
methods to verify information acquired by any
means... including torture.  Simply put, information
will be timely and good, or it will be bad,  or it will
be out of date and no longer relevant.  No matter
how intelligence information is obtained, its value
will always be determined by the means and
methods available to verify or discredit the

As a police officer, you'll have the luxury of avoiding
the torture debate, because you'll never have a
reason, valid or otherwise, to apply torture to
anyone.  You will have occasions where you'll be
required to apply severe physical pain and suffering
to subdue suspects.  The degree of pain and the
duration of suffering will depend upon the level of
force exerted against you to prevent you from
effecting a lawful arrest.  Your use of deadly force
will be the ultimate force whether or not death
results from your use of deadly force.  Whatever
degree of force you use during the course of your
duty, your application of force ends as soon as the
suspect is incapacitated or otherwise under your

As a police officer, if you use your knowledge and
instruments of force to extract a confession, or
other information, from a suspect, you'll be
committing a criminal assault, and it won't make
any difference how your application of force is
described... torture, brutality, excessive force, or an
act done in good faith due to exigent
circumstances... it just doesn't matter.

Although American police officers are very much a
part of the war against terrorism, police officers
operate in domestic jurisdictions where police
officers are expected, and indeed required, to
respect the civil rights of every person with whom
they come into contact.  When you become a police
officer, you'll work with a few who think that
extraordinary means are justified to meet just ends
for the public good.

Imagine yourself in this scenario.  You're a new
police officer who's just apprehended a robbery
suspect.  There's no question that this suspect is a
dangerous felon.  During the robbery in question,
the suspect shot and wounded the victim.  While
your arrest of the suspect was based on sufficient
probable cause, there's probably not enough
evidence currently developed to obtain a conviction.  
The victim's identification of the suspect is less than
positive, and the gun the suspect used has not
been recovered.  Other circumstantial evidence does
exist; however, a confession from the suspect
would seal the deal.  

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