A successful interrogation is the most powerful tool of a criminal investigator. The most dangerous enemy of any suspect is their own words against themselves, and these can become the most devastating evidence at the hands of any prosecutor. The jury is easily convinced when presented with this kind of evidence; unlike the science of DNA or the unreliability of witnesses, they can lead to an easy decision and a sure conviction.
A BIT OF HISTORY
The act of interrogation has had a pretty dark past; until the first half of the twentieth century, interrogations involved any necessary means to get the needed information out of the suspect, and often ended in torture. There was no proper procedure or fundamental legal basis for the lines of questioning used, nor was the interrogee under any rights. In 1936, in Brown vs. Mississippi, the supreme court ruled that confessions obtained through violence could not be valid evidence at trial, because any human subjected to coercion could admit to anything.
It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that John E. Reid, a polygraph expert, devised a method of psychological interrogation called the Reid Technique of Interrogation. Now made famous by countless police tv shows and movies, the procedure is based on psychological manipulations and the ability of the questioner to determine if the suspect is lying. This method is used today by every police department in the US.
However, psychological manipulation can also be considered violence, and coercion can still happen. With no clear evidence of physical violence, it was still difficult for the court to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary confessions. In the 1966 famous case Miranda vs. Arizona, the supreme court determined that additional measures needed to be put in place so the suspects could be made aware of their rights before being interrogated. Thus, the Miranda Warning was created and made mandatory to be voiced to all detainees before any line of questioning could ever begin.
BEST THEMES FOR AN INTERROGATION
The point of any interrogation is to have the subject as talkative as possible. If a suspect keeps talking, they are probably guilty, and they will either lie, continuously change their story, or flat out incriminate themselves. So don’t give up and use these themes below to build the foundation of your interrogation.
- Convince the suspect that the investigation will never stop. Neither you nor your officers will ever stop trying to solve the case. They will always be looking over their shoulder.
- Make the suspect understand the importance of the “why.” Tell them you already know they did it, but the why matters here because people will be left to think the worst about them, without a clear explanation of the reasons behind whatever they are being accused of. If the suspect starts giving reasons why they acted that way, they are, by all accounts, confessing to doing it.
- From the beginning, let the suspect know that you don’t consider them a bad person. You can tell them, “Sometimes things get out of hand, and bad stuff happens to good people. Now we just need to solve it so you can move on with your life.”
- In some cases, minimizing the severity of the felony, if you compare it to something else, for instance, puts the suspect at ease and increases the probability of a confession. No matter what the suspect did, if you can make it seem like it is not that big of a deal, he might be tempted to admit it.
- Sometimes mistakes happen. If you can formulate questions like, “this was just a mistake, wasn’t it, I know you did not mean to do this. Wasn’t it just a mistake?” With these questions, the suspect only has to answer with a “yes” or “no” to begin their confession and stop resisting. It is much easier to make a person admit to a mistake than to a severe crime.
HOW TO APPROACH AN INTERROGATION
The key to any successful interrogation is tactics. Below you can find some helpful strategies that can tip the scales in your favor.
Don’t lose control of your interrogation.
All information should come from the suspect, never from you, as a rule of thumb. Unless it’s in your best interest, try not to answer any questions from the suspect that would give away any information. Always redirect questions that have not been appropriately answered to whatever you wanted them to talk about in the first place.
Prepare a series of counterarguments to any possible defense by the suspect.
Carefully study the case, the subject, and the circumstances surrounding it before commencing the interrogation. You could even examine them with a Beheler admonition before formally placing them under arrest.
Soften your words and favor a non-accusatory approach.
Always assume the attitude of an objective person trying only to get to the truth. Steer away from calling the subject a criminal. For example, try something like, “I would like to talk with you about some issues with Amanda.” Instead of the more aggressive, “I would like to know why you have been molesting Amanda.”
In a police investigation, interrogations are often crucial to finding further clues about the circumstances, and sometimes even finding the culprit altogether. Make sure to be prepared and to have all the information you need before facing the suspect.