Police officers across Indiana would be explicitly prohibited from lying to juveniles during interrogation under legislation being shaped by the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.

State Sen. Rodney Pol Jr., D-Chesterton, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 415, along with state Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, the chairman of the committee. Both men are attorneys.

Pol said he's confident police officers are not lying to children on a regular basis. But he wants to make sure it doesn't happen at all.

Under his plan, a statement made by a person under age 18 in police custody for an alleged delinquent act would be inadmissible in court if a police officer communicated to the child false information regarding evidence, or false or unauthorized statements relating to penalties or leniency.

Pol said children are easily manipulated compared to adults and usually eager to please authority figures, so allowing police officers to lie to children during an interrogation is far more likely to produce a false confession.

A series of experts on juvenile development and delinquency confirmed Pol's claims for the committee Tuesday. They said children in police custody often will say anything an officer wants to hear if the child believes they'll be able to go home afterward.

When that happens, it sometimes sets off a freight train of bad outcomes leading to the wrong person being locked up for years or decades, said Nicky Jackson, a Purdue University Northwest professor and executive director at the Center for Justice and Post-Exoneration Assistance.

"When officers are lying they undermine their credibility and undermine the public's trust," Jackson said. "One wrongful conviction is one too many. It could be your child."

The measure is opposed by the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. It believes the state has sufficient protections for allegedly delinquent children in police custody, including a requirement the child's parent be present, both parent and child consent to waiving the child's right to remain silent, and parent and child have a meaningful opportunity to confer privately prior to speaking with police.

Freeman said he'd like to insert in the measure a good-faith exception for police who misspeak without necessarily intending to lie.

The panel next week is expected to consider additional revisions and then vote on advancing the proposal to the full Senate.
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