Search for the Truth: 4 Phases of Interrogation

Obtaining the truth during interrogations is crucial to solving cases and charging suspects, but the process is dynamic and ever-changing. To succeed in the interrogation process, interrogators must learn their craft, understand the process of obtaining the truth, and prepare for success.

What should I consider before beginning the interrogation?

Interrogators must make several determinations before confronting the suspect:

  • Should direct evidence be used early or late in the interrogation, or should the evidence be revealed at all?
  • Consider the personality and mental capacity of the suspect, the case facts and the strategy that will work best to identify the truth.
  • What personnel or legal requirements are necessary to close the investigation? This might involve considerations such as whether the interrogator is acting as an agent of law enforcement or working for an organization. Are there state licensing requirements? Is there a union involved? Legal issues stemming from the geographical location of the interview should also be identified.

Understanding the interrogation process leads to success

The first thing the interrogator must understand is the cause of resistance and denials; Fear. The ability to overcome this fear allows the suspect to feel comfortable enough to tell the truth. All styles of interrogation include four common components.

  1. Reducing Resistance
  2. Obtaining the Admission
  3. Development of the Admission
  4. Professional Close

Let’s look closer at the four phases of an interrogation

  1. Reducing Resistance

The interrogator should seek to reduce the suspect’s resistance to an admission. Several methods can achieve this, including a systematic presentation of evidence, the use of an emotional appeal, or the steady persistence of the interrogator. Constructing an interrogation to encourage a suspect to make a rational decision to confess is an important first step. This might involve consideration of factors such as whether the suspect is aware of the investigation or not. Suspect knowledge, fear, or anxiety may affect the individual’s resistance to a confession and the methods chosen by the interrogator to confront the suspect. Suspects typically admit only if they believe their guilt is known, and establishing credibility in the investigation is an important first step in which the interrogator is letting the suspect know they are caught. This process creates additional fear in the guilty individual, but is crucial for the second part, which is showing understanding. Essentially we are saying, “You’re caught, but you’re not such a bad person.” We are allowing the suspect to save face and feel a little better about themselves. If showing understanding/empathy is done correctly, the suspect will get to a point where they make a decision that confessing is the right thing to do.

2. Obtaining the Admission

During this stage of the interrogation, the suspect acknowledges that he/she is involved in the act under investigation. This is not a confession, merely the first admission that confirms the interrogator’s assertion that the suspect was involved. In most cases, there will be an opportune time that the interrogator will have an advantage in obtaining the admission. The suspect has made either an emotional or rational decision to confess. If the interrogator correctly recognizes the behavior associated with that decision he/she can now ask for the admission. Success in obtaining the admission can be dependent on the way the suspect is asked. Even when the suspect is ready to admit a direct question, “Did you do it?” will likely result in a denial rather than an admission.  The use of an assumptive question at this point is much more effective. There are two forms of assumptive questions a soft accusation “When is the very first time you _________, (fill in the blank) it wasn’t five years ago, was it?” In this case, we are not asking if they did it, we are asking for the first time. We then exaggerate the time frame to which they will quickly deny it was that long ago. They have just admitted they did it just not that long ago. The second form is a choice or alternative questions. In this case, we give the suspect two choices to pick from. One choice is a more acceptable choice compared to the second choice. “Did you take the money to pay bills or was it for gambling? It wasn’t for gambling was it?” In this case, we encourage a denial to the negative choice, which allows the suspect to save face by agreeing it was for a more acceptable reason. There are actually three choices. The innocent person will recognize the third option which is; “I never took any money.”

3. Development of the Admission

This part of the interrogation process expands the suspect’s admission into a legally acceptable confession that answers the investigative questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The interrogator takes the first admission and turns it into a legally acceptable confession by obtaining details that enhance the believability of his/her statements. The interrogator will substantiate all admissions answering the above investigative questions and obtaining information only the guilty suspect would know. In most cases it is advisable to hold back the actual evidence to assess the suspect’s truthfulness; their truthful admissions should match the evidence. By withholding what is known, the interrogator will often obtain additional admissions of wrongdoing from the suspect because he/she is not sure exactly what is known. Withholding evidence also allows the interrogator to be confident they are not obtaining a false confession.

 4. Professional Close

Once the interrogator has developed the admission obtaining all the details and has substantiated those admissions, the interrogator will get the suspect’s oral admission into a permanent form, either written or audio recorded, and have it witnessed. The more you can get the suspect to describe what happened and the details, the easier this part will be. It is often easier for the interrogator to ask questions in a chronological order allowing the suspect to respond in their own words so that the confession makes sense to anyone who reads or listens to it.  Many individuals have never written a statement; therefore the interrogator may have to guide them through the process.

Interrogation skills are learned skills

Interrogation expertise is a learned skill developed through preparation, knowledge and understanding. You can set your interrogations on the path to success through continued education and implementation of proven interview techniques. No one is born with great interrogation skills, but you can learn, practice, and ultimately master them!

Did you know two phases of interrogation are available as WZ webinars you can register for today?  To learn more about developing an admission and obtaining a solid statement visit: http://www.w-z.com/private-sector-interview-and-interrogation-training/webinars/