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Police assessment tool questioned by experts

Police departments in California and around the world are using a little-known assessment tool to determine if suspects are being truthful during criminal investigations. However, critics of the tool, which is known as Scientific Content Analysis, claim the process is unproven and its practitioners are poorly trained, causing innocent people to be arrested.

According to a recent investigative report by ProPublica and the South Bend Tribune, detectives trained in SCAN ask potential suspects to write down their version of events leading up to an alleged crime. They then analyze the handwritten statement to see if there are any signs of deception. This is done by tracking the pronouns an individual uses, any changes in vocabulary he or she may make and any details that are left out of the description. The maker of the tool, Phoenix-based Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation, claims that the process "unlocks the mystery" of a suspect's brain, and it is reportedly used by over 400 law enforcement agencies nationwide, including the FBI, the CIA and U.S. Army military intelligence.

However, a 2016 study found there is "no empirical support" showing that SCAN actually works. Meanwhile, opponents of the method claim that practitioners are given limited training and don't understand how or why it is supposed to work. Instead, they blindly believe in the tool's unproven results. This could lead to the arrest and conviction of innocent people.

Defendants facing charges for alleged crimes might need the help of a criminal defense attorney. After scrutinizing the facts of the case, the attorney may be able to challenge the prosecution's evidence, including any SCAN assessments that were performed, and get the charges dropped. If the case goes to trial, the attorney may be able to present a strong defense and help the defendant obtain an acquittal.

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