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Asking the Right Questions

Every law enforcement officer needs to know how to conduct a criminal interview and interrogation.

October 01, 2008  |  by Shane G. Sturman

None of us likes to be disliked and individuals tend to treat others the way others treat them. Thus, when we are dealing with a person who doesn't like us, we are more likely to judge the person to be deceptive based on behavior owing to the bias we have against the suspect. Recognizing these biases will prevent you from inaccurately evaluating the suspect's behavior.

Tip: Realize that no behavior symptoms happen by chance. All behavior is meaningful. In many cases, suspects are not even aware that they are reacting and providing you with behavioral clues.

Non-Accusatory Questions

Structuring an interview based on behavior-provoking, non-accusatory questions to elicit interpretable behavior symptoms is a typical way you may determine innocence or guilt. You should understand that although a meeting with the suspect may be non-accusatory for the purpose of eliciting alibis or explanations, it can turn into an interrogation at any time.

A professional, yet friendly, approach to the person being interviewed is the most effective way to establish rapport. A quick way to do this is by finding some common ground or interest, since people tend to like people who have similar interests and personalities.

By reading the suspect's personality, you can establish rapport by changing topics to discuss points of interest common to both of you. Try to connect with the suspect on one of the many similarities most people have. For example, common ground might be found in weather, family, work frustrations, bills, children, etc.

You will be judged by your appearance during the first few seconds. So consider removing handcuffs, weapons, or radios, which might create a sense of unease. Words such as witness, victim, court, and testimony, or slang terms used by police can also create an unacceptable image. Avoid any words that trigger negative responses or recreate the seriousness of the crime.

Once rapport has been established, cooperation is essential. By making general benefits statements, cooperation can be encouraged. Use benefits statements to convey the benefits of cooperation to the witness. The second part of the benefits statement strategy is providing the benefit that addresses the need. To provide the benefit, explain the building of a case and development of information and discuss how the witness might benefit from his cooperation.

Handling Denials

Regardless of whether you are interviewing or interrogating there are five basic types of lies you may have to deal with.

  • Direct Denial: This is a simple "I didn't do it" and it creates an emotional sense of disquiet called dissonance, which people try to avoid.
  • Lie of Omission: This is the most common type of lie because it allows an individual to tell the truth while omitting details that could create potential trouble. Down the road, when revisiting the same information, individuals tend to say they simply forgot if confronted with the omission.
  • Lie of Fabrication: This is the most difficult lie to tell because the suspect must be a quick thinker with good memory. The suspect must be able to create information without contradicting himself or herself to make the deception confident and ring of truth.
  • Lie of Minimization: This lie downplays significance, which the suspect hopes will satisfy the interviewer and limit further questions. This is like the first offer in a negotiation. There will likely be more to come.
  • Lie of Exaggeration: Many exaggerated claims can be tested by looking for inconsistencies in the story. Con men and swindlers often make contradictory claims because of their flamboyant personalities.

The suspect's level of cooperation will determine whether you want to challenge his or her truthfulness. The decision to confront might be directly related to the investigative strategy. Regardless, a plan for re-interviewing should be prepared with time to investigate the fact surrounding the subject's story.

At some point, the subject must be confronted with his or her deceptions and involvement in the crime. There will be a transition from the interview where the suspect does most of the talking to the interrogation where most of the talking will be done by you, the

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

James Arlotta @ 9/1/2016 9:21 AM

I believe you neglected to mention the part where the person(s) has the right to ask if they're being detained, are under arrest, or having the right to leave. IF DETAINED OR ARRESTED READING THEIR MIRANDA RIGHT'S INFORMING THEM OF...1.)THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT... 2.) THEIR RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY... 3.) IF THEY CAN NOT AFFORD ONE THAT THEY WILL BE PRESENTED ONE AT NO COST BY THE STATE... 4.) ASKING THEM IF THEY UNDERSTAND THE RIGHTS YOU HAVE READ THEM? 5.) DO YOU WISH TO SPEAK TO US AT THIS TIME?

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