Interviewing Suspects – Successful Interrogation Techniques Course
By Brian Blackwell
The successful interrogation of a suspect is mostly about psychology and quick thinking. You shouldn’t try to interrogate anyone if you lose your nerve or have a prejudice as to the innocence of the person. Be calm and try to find the truth, not to prove you’re right in your suspicions.
Criminal investigators interview suspects in order to establish guilt and apprehend criminals involved in all sorts of crimes.
Investigators use many different interviewing techniques to establish the guilty party, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. The use of these techniques depends on the type of crime, the age, and gender of the suspect and other factors. Good investigators know how to assess the situation and use the most effective technique to achieve their goals.
This technique is quite straightforward and is used in a variety of different interviewing situations by investigators around the world. The technique involves letting the suspect tell his side of the story without any interruption from the interviewers. The suspect may be asked to repeat the story as many as three or four times in order to establish consistency, or lack thereof, in the story. The investigator may listen to the story, verify facts or inconsistencies and then re-interrogate the suspect.
The Reid Technique is often criticized for convincing innocent suspects to admit crimes of which they are not guilty, but it is generally seen as an effective investigatory model. The technique involves a non-accusatory interview followed by carefully phrased behavior-provoking questions. The interviewer approaches the suspect in a nonconfrontational, understanding way in order to make the suspect feel comfortable to the point that they acknowledge and admit the crime. A series of nine steps known as the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation is used to bring the suspect to confess the crime. The focus of the Reid Technique, a registered trademark of the law firm John Reid and Associates, is on eliminating innocent suspects.
The bluff technique is an effective way of scaring guilty suspects into admitting the crime. The interviewer tells the suspect that there is unequivocal evidence of guilt, that, for example, a reliable witness saw them commit the crime or that his or her fingerprints have been found on the murder weapon, even though this information is unsubstantiated. This tactic essentially scares the suspect into admitting his or her guilt. In essence, the interviewer approaches the suspect by saying “we know what you did, now just admit it,” and the suspect cracks. If the suspect is innocent, he will maintain his disbelief at the given facts.
Steps to a Successful Interview/Interrogation:
1. Start the interview with a light conversation during which you will be able to establish the character of the questioned person. This may involve their occupation, musical preferences, family, etc. During this preliminary conversation, look for signs that the person is nervous and scared, prone to bragging, confident or not. Mark their level of intelligence and adapt to it.
2. Abruptly switch to the subject of the questioning. Be sure to notice the interviewed person’s reaction. Remember that in 9 out of 10 cases the first impressions are the most correct.
3. Let the interrogated person tell you their story without interrupting them. Look for inconsistencies. Being too detailed often shows the person has prepared themselves for questioning and has had the time to make their story up.
4. Have another person enter the room shortly after the interviewed person has finished their story. Your associate must pretend to say something in your ear. Give the interviewed person a short look and excuse yourself.
5. Return in about 15 minutes. At this time, the suspect should be worried as to what has happened during your absence.
6. Take a few seconds during which you rearrange things on the table/desk, sit quietly, or scribble something on a scrap of paper. Then proceed to ask the suspect about the inconsistent points in their story.
7. Ask for details. Some questions, like the color of a hit-and-run vehicle, are easy to answer and the suspect saying they do not remember is an obvious attempt to conceal something. Likewise, it would be unusual in most instances for the interrogated person to have seen or remembered the license plate number, so answering this question would show them having thought the whole thing over.
8. Combine real questioning with irrelevant questions, leading the suspect into believing you have something on your mind.
9. Look for signs the suspect is lying. These may include crossing their hands (defensive position), sitting on the edge of the chair, too relaxed posture, tilting their head to one side, looking up as they think of the answer.
10. Frequent use of expletives like “honestly”, frankly, etc. shows that the suspect is lying. People who believe in what they say do not appeal to the listener’s trust.
11. Ask the suspect a question, the answer to which you already know. This way you can see whether they’re willing to correctly answer your questions.
12. Be careful about the details. Avoid mentioning details about the crime. Try to get the suspect to tell you something about the crime scene that isn’t public knowledge and only the perpetrator would know. Get them to give details away that reveals them as the person who committed the crime.
13. Remember that most people lie when questioned. But it does not mean they’re a criminal.
Tips and Important Facts
– Be calm. A show of aggressiveness will only make your suspect refuse to talk to you.
– When you find a major inconsistency in the suspect’s story, don’t be too quick to point it out. Let them build the rest of their story on a false premise.
– A person looking down while thinking of the answer shows they’re trying to remember, whereas looking up means they’re just making it up at the moment.
– Answering a question too soon means the suspect has made the story up. If they are telling you the truth, it should take some time for them to remember the details.
Brian Blackwell Investigations