How do you facilitate suspect interviews? Where did you learn your techniques from? Education is crucial to consistently advance your skills in any field. We asked law enforcement professionals with backgrounds in investigative and interrogation work to contribute tips.
How do you facilitate suspect interviews?
Where did you learn your techniques from?
Education is crucial to consistently advance your skills in any field.
We asked law enforcement professionals to contribute tips and interrogation techniques that will help their fellows upgrade their investigative processes. See below for the results!
1. José Granado
Former Captain - Miami Police Department
"An unprepared investigator is setting themselves up for failure."
“In over 35 years in Law Enforcement, I have been involved with hundreds of interviews. An important rule that any investigator must follow is to conduct the interview prepared. An unprepared investigator is setting themselves up for failure, whether they are interviewing possible witnesses and especially if they are interviewing a suspect. Investigators must have patience and the gift of gab when interviewing, continue the interview as long as the suspect is willing to talk or until they invoke their right to counsel. An adversarial style of interviewing is a tactic or strategy that can fail and hinder an investigation. Investigators must tread lightly when deciding to go down that path. A good interview or interrogation is all psychological and the investigator must find the door which has been closed by the suspect/subject, find the key, and open it. This approach will determine in which direction the interview or interrogation will go. But, the most important tip, never begin an interview of a suspect without having advised them of their Constitutional Rights. These are a few suggestions and there are many more in my book, “The Homicide Manifesto”, which can be obtained through Amazon, Barnes and Noble books or Austin Macauley’s website. Also, one can listen to my Podcast, “Behind The Yellow Tape Podcast”, on iTunes.”
Cpt. Jose ‘Pepi’ Granado is a graduate of St. Thomas University. He’s a retired captain with 35 years of law enforcement experience spanning two agencies, Miami Police Department for 25 years and Miami Gardens Police Department for 11 years. During his illustrious career, he investigated and managed over 800 homicide and death investigations. As a subject matter expert, his experience and leadership allowed for his ascension to captain overseeing the Criminal Investigations Division. Throughout his career, he was instrumental in establishing investigative protocols, and training/mentoring inexperienced investigators and supervisors. He is devoted to teach a new generation of investigators.
2. Chandra Cleveland
President & CEO of Columbia Private Investigations & Consultants
“As an Investigator of 35 plus years, I have learned to go in with knowledge and patience. Invite the suspect to make them know that they are going to be there for a while, then spoon-feed them the questions you already know the answers to. Because you are able to know which way to really go with the suspect, then you hit them with a little hard question, if they answer that correctly you pretend to show respect with something like “thank you, we were not aware of that information.” It will lead you to the door of putting the icing on the case, which is to tell him/her they are being arrested for the crime. Patience will lead to a worthy reward as an Investigator in some cases.”
Inv. Chandra Cleveland-Jennings is the President & (CEO) of Columbia. Private Investigations & Consultants, LLC, C. Cleveland Speaks, and ITS On Me 2 a 501c 3 organization which mission is to train everyone how important it is to take charge of their own safety. Columbia Private Investigations, Chandra is also a Executive Protection Body Guard for the Stars such Atlanta’s Bad Girls Club, Housewives Of Atlanta and Little Women of Atlanta. Chandra is also has Executive Protection for Presidential candidates at Presidential debates in 2004 and 2019. Chandra has been very instrumental in rescuing several girls for Sex Trafficking in our communities and continues to being a voice to inform parents of the latest social media dangers. Chandra was the investigator that was hire by the mother of the missing cheerleader Gabbie Swainson, when law enforcement labeled a runaway, she got them to see it was an abduction. Chandra has been seen on Nancy Grace, Michael Baisden Show, Yolanda Adams Show, and Black and Missing. She is also an Investigator “Cheaters” for the South Carolina area. A native of Columbia, SC, Cleveland began her career in law enforcement in 1989-2006 with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, patrol division. In 2002, she was assigned as the first black female Internal Affairs Investigator, she earned top honors as the first female to be Deputy of The Year for The State of SC. During her tenure she developed an incredible reputation for being tough and highly informed on juvenile crimes, gang activities in our communities.
3. J. Paul Nadeau
Former police detective, hostage negotiator and international peacekeeper
“Check your ego at the door."
“Not all criminal suspects are guilty and not all are bad people. Regardless of good or bad, this works in almost every case. Walk into your interview keeping in mind that how you treat them is how they will likely treat you. Check your ego at the door. How much they cooperate will depend on three factors: whether they know you, like you and trust you. What, you say?!
It doesn’t take long to make that happen. Start by dropping your official ‘title,’ ( i.e. “I’m Detective Nadeau, but you can call me Paul”) and invite the suspect to call you by your first name. This personalizes the interaction. Ask what name you can you to address them, (“What should I call you”). Tell them that you’re there to treat them with dignity and respect and that you’re not there to judge them or find them guilty of anything – that you’re only after the truth. State the purpose, i.e.: “I’m here to ask you about…” Then drop the formality and interview for a bit. Don’t launch into the interview/interrogation immediately.
Take time to build rapport and get to know the person sitting across from you. Show interest. Find something in common. Begin with a friendly conversation. You’ll know when to move to the subject under investigation. Their body language and openness by that time will signal you when it’s time. People respond best to those they know, like, and trust.”
Former police detective, hostage negotiator and international peacekeeper J. Paul Nadeau spent more than 30 years working with victims of crime and perpetrators and learning from top experts in abuse situations, murder investigations, hostage-takings, terrorist attacks and human behavior in general. Over the course of his career, Paul talked hostage-takers into giving themselves up and murderers into admitting to their crimes. And because of his extensive training and his unique approach to connecting with people of all walks of life and under every circumstance, his life was saved by a terrorist during a terrorist attack in the Middle East. Paul’s success in helping others led him to write the best-selling acclaimed book, “Take Control of Your Life,” published by HarperCollins Canada which has been credited for saving lives and helping hundreds of people deal with anxiety, depression, self-sabotage and a number of other human conditions. Paul is a mental health specialist and was the “Canadian Mental Health Associations” first choice as keynote speaker in 2019 for their 4th National Conference. He is a regular guest on SiriusXM’s talk radio, a consultant to world news networks such as CNN, the National and CP24 for his expertise on terrorism and global hostage crisis,’ a screenwriter and accomplished keynote speaker on the topics of negotiations, conflict resolution and mental health.
4. Scott Savage
Law Enforcement Officer
“Most conventional police interrogation training is based on outdated techniques."
“The actions of law enforcement officers are under more scrutiny now than any other time in human history. The way officers interrogate criminal suspects is a subject of hot debate. I think that debate is for good reason because what most people probably don’t know is that most conventional police interrogation training is based on outdated techniques, some of which have been proven to be based on nothing more than pseudo-science. Worse yet, many of the same techniques still being taught to law enforcement officers today have been scientifically proven to contribute to false confessions. That always comes as a surprise to most police officers who simply attend training courses and assume they are learning safe and scientifically sound techniques. It’s never surprising to researchers however, many of whom have for years published papers and books condemning conventional interrogation training as dangerous. When our course designers created our Interview and “Interrogation” training course they couldn’t believe the mountains of research that was easily accessible including the specific recommendations on how police interrogation training must change. My biggest advice to police officers looking to attend interrogation training is to make sure the course you choose is in harmony with the latest research and isn’t based on those outdated techniques. If not, you may find yourself having to defend yourself in court one day, or worse yet, you may unknowingly participate in convicting an innocent person. Don’t think it happens? Simply read the research.”
Scott Savage is a veteran law enforcement officer in California and a sought after training expert. His organization, the Savage Training Group, provides advanced training to law enforcement officers across the US.
5. Roy Williams
Former Sr. Sergeant Investigator assigned to the Sexual Assault Unit, specializing in Human Trafficking at Dallas County
“There is a distinct difference between interviewing a suspect and interrogating one. Oftentimes, these terms are used interchangeably. However, they do not share identical functions during questioning.
Interviewing occurs during the initial stage of your investigation and is considered the lowest level of suspect interaction. The tone is mild and questions are generally open-ended. It is during the interview where your suspect if often discovered and identified. Once you have attained enough data/evidence to reach this conclusion, you shift your questioning towards the interrogation.
Interrogating has a change in tone. You have accused the suspect of having some involvement in the crime and begin to reveal the evidence you have against them. You will likely do a majority of the talking and the questioning will be more direct and accusatory.
Be mindful of the fact that an interview can lead to an interrogation, but not vice-versa. It is impossible to return to interviewing once the interrogation has commenced.”
Honorable Roy Williams, Jr. is the former elected Constable of Precinct 4 in Dallas County. First elected in November 2010, he assumed office in January 2011, completing his second term in office in December, 2018. In lieu of running uncontested for a third term, he chose to seek a higher office, running for Dallas County Sheriff. Unsuccessful in this pursuit, he gained employment with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, serving as a Sr. Sergeant Investigator assigned to the Sexual Assault Unit, specializing in Human Trafficking. He retired from Dallas County in November 2019, having served for past 29 years, seven months.
During his term, Hon. Williams, who has earned his Master Peace Officer license, was asked by the Texas Democratic Party to serve as Head of Security for the 2014 Democratic State Convention that was held in Dallas, TX. He was the Dallas County Democratic Party Elected Official of the Year in 2015, and was recognized by Elite News, earning the Chief Don Stafford Law Enforcement Award in 2015 and 2017.
Hon. Williams is an Ordained Deacon at the Greater Golden Gate Missionary Baptist Church, under the pastoral leadership of Pastor Fabian K. Jacko. He sits on the Board of Directors for Lifeline for Families, Inc., serving as President, and Chairs the Criminal Justice Advisory Board at Singley Academy in Irving ISD. He previously served as a committee member with the Texas Association of Counties Education Committee, and was an alternate board member with the North Central Texas Council of Government Emergency Preparedness Planning Council.
6. Lisa Cutts
Detective Constable with Kent Police & Crime Books Writer
“You can’t lie or mislead with the information you already know but there is no problem with holding information back.
As long as the custody (PACE) time allows, there is no issue having a break to check or verify facts.
Sometimes the suspect refusing to answer questions can help the investigator.”
Lisa is a serving Detective Constable with Kent Police working in the Major Crime Department dealing with murders, sexual offenses and kidnaps. Lisa writes crime books with her insider knowledge and is busy writing the DC Nina Foster series and the East Rise Incident Room series. Lisa’s debut novel “Never Forget” can be purchased via Amazon.
7. Patrick Murphy
Former FBI Special Agent
“A good interview is as much about being a good listener as it is about asking the questions."
Prepare questions: When preparing for a planned interview it may be helpful to write out questions in a logical progression. It forces you to organize your thoughts, pull the relevant facts together, gather documents you may want to show the interviewee, and if it is going to be a confrontational interview, flag test questions. It is rare that you will stick to the script of your questions and you want to go with the flow of the interview as opposed to sticking to the script. However, before you end the interview look back over your questions to make sure you didn’t miss anything…because you may only get one shot.
- If you are bringing documents to show the interviewee, make sure you mark them (e.g. Bates #) so you can later reference them in your report.
Put the interviewee at ease: Generally speaking, it is good to put the interviewee at ease. Even if you anticipate a confrontational interview, try to bring down the tension at the start. Begin with a friendly but professional tone and start out with basic questions to include bio info (i.e. name, date of birth, address, employment etc.). Even if you already have the information, it helps to ask them their bio info to get them calmed down and it gives you a chance to glance at their baseline. I have even tried a little humor to break the tension and hopefully get him/her to drop their guard a little. It is good to try to develop some rapport or at least don’t try to offend them right from the start. Ways to offend include coming across as judgmental, or arrogant, or trying to impress them with your vocabulary, downgrading their status or profession, finishing their sentences, interrupting them, failing to give eye contact when they are talking to you, or failing to listen to what they are saying- this would be especially bad because a good interview is as much about being a good listener as it is about asking the questions.
Pat Murphy, JD, CPA, Certified Fraud Examiner and Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist, is Managing Director and Practice Lead for Investigations at Prescient. He provides investigative support for litigation matters and assists clients with internal investigations of fraud, theft and corruption.
Prior to joining Prescient, Pat was Director of Forensic, Investigative, and Dispute Services with Grant Thornton. During his time at Grant Thornton he led internal investigations of fraud, theft and corruption for corporate and government clients.
Prior to joining Grant Thornton, Pat spent over 26 years with the FBI as a Special Agent and Supervisory Special Agent. During his career, he investigated and supervised complex white-collar crime and public corruption cases. He served as the public corruption coordinator for the Chicago office and also served on a fraud and corruption task force in Iraq. Pat is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Award for Outstanding Investigation and U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service.
Catch Patrick’s interview on the Netflix series, Trial By Media, he is featured on the “Blago!” episode.
8. David Thompson
Partner, Vice President of Operations and an instructor with Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, Inc
"An effective approach is to rely on rapport-based, non-confrontational interviews.”
“If you’ve ever been directly accused of something before, more than likely you’ve immediately responded with a denial. We have an instinct to self-preserve, innocent or guilty, our first response is to protect ourselves. In traditional interrogations, investigators often resort to direct accusations early in the conversation. An accusation generally results in an immediate denial and increased resistance from the subject. This also makes the interviewers job more complex, as the subject has now committed to their denial and has to be persuaded otherwise. A more effective approach is to rely on rapport-based, non-confrontational interviews. Initiating a conversation through a discussion of the investigation and the interviewers role, while developing trust through rapport and allowing the subject to make more rational decisions can yield great results. This strategy has proven to obtain more reliable information, develop better community relations and ultimately resolve cases with more credibility. Additionally, when interviews are recorded in their entirety, a non-confrontational interview will provide a transparent perspective into the most ethical way to obtain the truth.”
David Thompson, CFI is a Partner, Vice President of Operations and an instructor with Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, Inc. (WZ). He is responsible for the day to day operations of WZ, as well as strategic planning in product offerings and the evolution of interview and interrogation content. David has also served as the Director of Investigations for WZ giving him the opportunity to manage a variety of cases while conducting interviews and consulting on investigations ranging from theft and fraud to sexual harassment and homicide. As a speaker for WZ, David has created customized training programs, presented at seminars, hosted a variety of webinars as well as conducted live broadcasts of training. He is also an active member of the International Association of Interviews (IAI) and has contributed blogs, video tips and published several articles to support the continuing education of its members.
9. Scott Mogck
Certified Subject Matter Expert for the US Department of Defense
“Psychologically, the interrogator needs to get the subject to view the interrogator as the protector and the source of calm.”
“The Emotional Fear-Down Approach is necessary in a real life interrogation or interview scenario. The interrogator should do what they can to properly assess the reasons for the subject’s fear, and find a way to mitigate the subject’s fear that will lead to cooperation on the part of the subject.
The fear mitigation is not normally a formal agreement, or one that even has to be articulated by the interrogator. Instead, the interrogator/interviewer uses verbal and nonverbal behavior to calm the subject. This can include changing physical positions in relation to the subject, using a soothing tone of voice, adopting a more open and non-threatening body posture, kind and affirming facial expressions, projecting a sense of calm, and offering cigarettes and/or some kind of drink.
Psychologically, the interrogator needs to get the subject to view the interrogator as the protector and the source of calm. The interrogator can then use this to elicit gratitude in the subject, and foster cooperation by the subject with the source of his fear reduction. An Emotional Fear-Down Approach can, by itself, create the rapport necessary for the subject to cooperate once pertinent questioning related to investigative objectives begins.”
Scott Mogck is operationally experienced and US Department of Defense certified as a subject matter expert in Interrogation, Counterintelligence and Force Protection Source Operations, Counterinsurgency, and operationally experienced and trained in countering terrorist/criminal networks.
10. Jim Twardesky
Patrol officer, field training officer, defensive tactics instructor & Detective.
"Empathy is your most important asset when conducting interviews, especially in difficult interviews where the person is not being entirely truthful with you.”
“The goal of investigative interviews, whether it is a suspect or a potential witness, is to obtain truthful statements to help further the investigation. The reality is that for a variety of reasons, some people will not be forthcoming about what they know. It could be because they’ve done something wrong. Maybe they’ve done something embarrassing. It could be because they fear being labeled a snitch. Everyone has their own individual motivations for what they do or don’t do. Their motivation for not talking could be any number of reasons, some legitimate, some silly, but either way, it is important to them and its preventing you from getting the information you need.
True empathy is the ability to see and understand what another person is experiencing in any given situation. Empathy for the person in front of you helps your interviews by helping you to identify their motive for not talking. Once that motive is identified, you’re in a better position to persuade them to tell the entire truth despite their inclinations not to.
It’s important here to remember that empathy is different from sympathy. Sympathy is feeling bad for someone’s situation; empathy is about understanding someone else’s perspective. I’ve interviewed hundreds of child molesters for whom I have zero sympathy after what they’ve done. However, I can tell you that many of the confessions I obtained came after an expression of empathy for what they’re going through. A simple “it must be tough having your deepest darkest secret revealed to the world, I would lie too if I was you” has led many offenders to telling me their deepest, darkest secret.
Whenever you find yourself struggling through a difficult interview, try looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective and adjust your strategy accordingly. Over time, I assure you that you’ll see your success rate go up.”
Detective Jim Twardesky has worked in law enforcement since 1999, serving as a cadet, patrol officer, field training officer, defensive tactics instructor, & detective. Since 2014, he has served as a detective investigating violent crime, specializing in sexual assault & violent crimes against children. In that capacity, he has investigated hundreds of cases including multiple child homicides and serial rapists.
Since 2017, he has lectured and hosted training seminars regularly at police academies, colleges and professional conferences throughout the State of Michigan on the subjects of sexual assault, child molestation, child abuse & child homicide. He has written articles for PoliceOne.com on those topics as well.
He further serves as an adjunct faculty member for the Macomb Community College Public Service Institute teaching undergraduate criminal justice classes both online & in-person. In addition, he has developed & taught advanced police training seminars for the Macomb Criminal Justice Training Center focusing on child abuse and sexual assault.
11. Rodshetta Smith
Police Officer & State Investigator
“If you appear to be weak and unsure, the suspect will not feel it necessary to provide you with an interview or will give you false information. ”
- Be confident in the information that you have and do your research on the evidence prior to the interview. It is important that you know the facts of the case prior to speaking with the alleged suspect. If you appear to be weak and unsure, the suspect will not feel it necessary to provide you with an interview or will give you false information. The old school of thought that suspects are not intelligent is not accurate and will backfire on you while you are trying to get a confession or information.
- Check your emotions at the door, because although we come across some of the most heinous crimes committed by people who we feel should seek immediate justice, it is not our decision. The suspect and victim deserve to be allowed their constitution right to participate in the judicial process.
- Make good eye contact, watch their body language and be a good listener. Use active listening skills to let them tell you the story and repeat back the highlights of what they are saying to build rapport. Although it may not always be the response we hoped for, recording the interview and repeating back the suspects words can be used by the District Attorney Office as evidence if there are discrepancies in what they are saying.
- Speak to the suspect in his or her own language or at their intellectual level. Use simple terms, no police Jargon and ask them how they prefer to be addressed. This helps build rapport and shows you respect them as a human. They are likely to recognize this and want to speak with you.
Rodshetta grew up in Oakland, California and for years witnessed violence, racial injustice, and poverty in her own community. She also learned the value of hard work, watched small businesses thrive, and learned to appreciate having the opportunity to experience a diverse culture filled with many languages and international foods. She went to the East Coast for college and then returned to her hometown and became an Oakland Police Officer. When asked what she wanted her legacy to be it was easy for her to decide she wanted to dedicate her career to advocating for and inspiring youth. Rodshetta left Oakland in 2010 and transferred to Mountain View Police due to some budget crisis. She made her home in Mountain View for over 8 years. During her time in Mountain View she, not only grew as a police professional, she grew personally and was able to continue her mission to engage the community, educate youth, and advocate for young people. She obtained her Masters Degree in Forensic Psychology and worked various assignments throughout her police career. Rodshetta has been blessed to partner with local technology companies, county agencies, hospital districts, and the school districts. She has been truly blessed in her law enforcement career. Since 2019, she moved to Texas with her family and started another career working for the State as an Investigator. She is still passionate about protecting and inspiring our young people.
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