Sunday, March 14, 2021

Police Use Hypnosis in Texas

     The Texas Department of Public Safety put an end in January to 40 years of using hypnosis to investigate crimes, The Dallas Morning News reported. The announcement Texas Rangers will cease the shocking practice came in the wake of a two-part series, "The Memory Room," outlining the hypnosis program and published by the newspaper last April. The News reported officers used the debunked technique to send dozens of men and women to prison and some to their deaths.   

The Rangers employed hypnosis in attempts to obtain evidence for investigation. It was not clear to what extent it was used as an interrogation technique. The program raises many concerns due to the vulnerability of a hypnosis subject to be coerced and influenced.

The circumstances are darkly reminiscent of the saga of Navy Petty Officer Daniel King, as described in the Hoffman Report. King was held by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service from 1999-2001 on suspicion of spying. His detainment involved brutal interrogation sessions and the use of hypnosis. The young man was ultimately released and the case became the subject of an ethics review. A liaison for the American Psychological Association called the actions of the hypnotist "ethically very marginal."

The infamous use of hypnosis as a memory enhancer is well known in the UFO genre. Despite the practice having been conclusively discredited by qualified memory experts, it continues to find ill advised support among alien abduction advocates.

UFO proponents using hypnosis as an investigative tool can be traced back to the 1960's case of Betty and Barney Hill. Although Dr. Benjamin Simon employed hypnosis as a treatment for trauma with the couple, and did not take the resulting mental imagery literally, the sessions were misrepresented by others as compelling evidence for alien interaction. 

As one mental health professional explained to us here at The UFO Trail, "After speaking directly with Dr. Simon, I felt duped by the UFO community and media. There was misrepresentation of Dr. Simon's conclusions in the Hill case. These false conclusions were widely continued on in movies, books, etc. I was very disappointed and discounted the case as a result of hearing the truth from the practitioner."  

UFO researcher Dr. Leo Sprinkle used hypnosis as a means to try and extract what he supposed were suppressed memories of aliens. As described by Adam Gorightly in his new book, Saucers, Spooks and Kooks, Paul Bennewitz would secure his car from alien influence by lining the windows with tin foil for the vehicle to be used as a safe space for Sprinkle to hypnotize Myrna Hansen. Some of the resulting mental imagery from the 1980 case was promoted so widely it continues today to be incorrectly taken for granted as factual about alien abduction and surrounding circumstances. Suffice it to say the Sprinkle-Hansen activities should not be considered mentally healthy, much less effective or helpful treatment for trauma.

Budd Hopkins
The cow was then out of the barn, and so-called researchers such as Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs, and John Carpenter relied virtually exclusively on hypnotic regression as an investigative technique. They gave little more than lip service to the welfare of the individuals being hypnotized. The haphazard sessions offered easy to manufacture, plentiful sources of otherwise mostly nonexistent evidence. Related ethical failures are thoroughly documented in my book, The Greys Have Been Framed. The work of Carol Rainey is salient on the topic, including her article, The Priests of High Strangeness, as well as posts she contributed to The UFO Trail.     

The Dallas Morning News reported Texas Rangers performed at least 1,700 hypnosis sessions since the 1980's. Public records obtained by the outlet indicate eight sessions were conducted by officers last year, including an October attempt to investigate a kidnapping. Three of the eight sessions were related to murder investigations. 

While the Rangers had the most prolific hypnosis program in Texas, its shelving does not necessarily signify the end of the troubling law enforcement practice. Over 800 officers have been approved statewide to implement hypnosis since the 1980's. Most states have banned or significantly restrict hypnosis use by police officers and prosecutors. Texas is likely the only state with an active certification program for officers to learn hypnosis and hosts probably the only police organization in the country with investigative hypnotists.