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Interrogation: Letting the Game Come to You

Recently I was working on a couple of interrogation tapes that some agencies ask me to review and soon after presented two of my Level 3 & 4 classes.  On the fourth day of this class, students get the opportunity to participate in live interviews with volunteer subjects from a nearby correctional facility.  In both instances, I was struck by the fact that the interviewers felt the need to “drive” the interview or interrogation.  In each case the goal of the interviewer was to find the truth but during their big push I noticed the interviewers were missing some subtle but yet extremely important responses by their subjects.  As interviewers we need to learn how to just “steer” an interview and “let the game come to us.”

With the initiation of the narration phase of any interview I have a set of goals I hope to achieve. First, I want to elicit a full and complete uninterrupted statement from my subject so that I can a.) identify if the individual is evading, withholding, omitting, altering, or overlooking critical information that I need for my investigation and b.) if they are evading, withholding or altering information is it with the deliberate intent to mislead me. If I assume a “driving” type of approach I often push the subject away from or race past issues that may be critical to my analysis and ultimately my case. Think of this like driving at night – we can “over drive” our headlights.  We’ll have little or no time to react to any road changes or hazards that we illuminate with our headlights because we plowing through the darkness full speed ahead.  By slowing down even just a little in the room I can allow a subject’s reactions and responses to develop a little more fully.  Now as the interviewer I can “steer” the interview into this areas and thereby giving me more time and as well many more opportunities to react to my subject and the issues that are obviously significant to them.

No one likes being “driven” into what they may perceive is a emotionally or mentally threatening situation.  Any one of us would immediately start to resist in at least a passive if not aggressive form.  Our fight or flight responses have been automatically triggered by the feeling we may be heading for a trap. In two different interviews in two different advanced classes, I spotted the same “driving” technique being used by students on their inmate volunteers.  I’m sure that with their new skills my students certainly wanted to unleash all their newly acknowledge on the poor unsuspecting inmate but I could them missing some key issues. Doing something I rarely do, I wrote a note to each interviewer basically telling them to slow down, allow the subject time to develop their responses and notice their reactions. In other words, “let the game come to you.”  In both cases,  there was an immediately significant increase in the subjects’ reactions as well as the quantity and quality of information – both spoken and unspoken.

We don’t need to “drive” our subjects during the interview – just “steer.” If we need to get a full and complete narrative from our subject and then fairly test the accuracy of our subject’s statements, then we are going to have to learn to “let the game come to us.”

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