Los Angeles police officials have reassigned a homicide detective and will train others to be more careful in protecting witnesses after the slaying of a teenage girl after officers disclosed her name as part of a ruse during an interrogation, reports the Los Angeles Times. Detective Martin Pinner was removed from homicide cases this month after the Times reported the 2003 slaying of 16-year-old Martha Puebla, said Deputy Chief Charlie Beck. The article detailed how a member of a notorious San Fernando Valley gang had Puebla killed after Pinner and his partner lied and told him that the girl had identified him as the killer.
Starting last week, training for all new and veteran detectives was changed to include clearer instruction on how to balance the often aggressive push to extract confessions from suspects with the need to protect witnesses — actual or otherwise. “It became clear [after the article] that we needed to add more pieces to our training,” said Beck, who recently took over the department’s detective corps. “We have never had this issue arise before, and we certainly do not want it to arise again.” In the past, detectives were largely taught that ruses were permitted unless, in the detective’s opinion, it would lead an innocent person to confess. Now, training has been bolstered to make clear to detectives that they must weigh the benefit of lying to a suspect against the potential danger the lies may create.