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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.”

Too Many Choices – Creating Frustration in Interrogation

by Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

If given the time, we could probably come up with a number of reasons a suspect won’t confess, a hostile witness won’t cooperate or why the victim won’t disclose.  If we then reviewed our “list” objectively we might find that we have placed a large portion of the blame on our subject and were partially if not fully blind to any problems we may have created.  It’s time to give ourselves and our subject a break.  The impasse may in fact have been created because of there being too many choices to be made by us and our subject.

All too often when entering an interview room, we like to go in “armed to the teeth” with information and facts.  Being fully loaded with evidence is certainly not a bad thing but how we choose to present that information can be a handicap for the interviewer as well as the subject.  With some many choices to make about what topics to address, how to address them, what order and more, we get caught up in the “planning” and can bungle the “presentation.” Because we have too many choices to make we may see a successful interview as a long and difficult campaign with no assurance of success and even a higher probability of early failure.  To overcome this problem, try dealing with and presenting only one issue at a time and strive to win small battles and not the whole “war” with one big “atomic” question that tries to incorporate multiple issues.  You’ll find you’ll be able to focus more on your subject, miss fewer of the important responses and increase your chances of overall success.

Far too many choices presented to the victim, witness or suspect also has a higher probability of negative outcome.  Contrary to common belief, it is known in the sales profession too many choices presented to the customer kills more sales than they make and the same behavior response applies to the interview room.  Asking for agreement or concession from your subject on several issues at once makes the ultimate decision by the subject much more difficult.  When we increase the difficulty of the decision making cycle for our subject, the longer it will take for the person to make their decision to comply, cooperate or confess. The longer the decision-making cycle is extended for our subject, the greater the chance that the results of the decision process will be negative and thus harder for us to reverse and overcome.

Review your case before you conduct your interview. Break down the case interview objectives into smaller more manageable tasks and move toward your goals of cooperation, compliance and admission by winning small victories by reducing the choices to be made at any one time.  You’ll improve your chances of a successful interview.