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What Are Effective Interviewing & Interrogation Techniques?

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When it comes to police investigations and criminal affairs, getting information from suspects is far more difficult than it may seem. There are many different types of criminal minds out there, and it can be tough to know exactly how to engage each individual in order to obtain important information. That is why effective interrogation and interviewing techniques are so crucial for investigators. Various tactics must be used to get different suspects to open up. Law-enforcement interrogators almost always have to use some sort of psychology to engage a suspect. This can be the determining factor in an interview or interrogation.

Basic Interrogation Strategy

There are some basic strategies used by most civilian law-enforcement professionals. These strategies are based on a funnel model. In other words, general information is gathered first, and the questions become progressively more detailed as the process continues. This is easier said than done. You must follow some simple protocol to have greater success.

Initial Rapport Building

The very first thing an investigator must do is build rapport with the person he is interrogating. It is important to establish authority and outline the situation. Both the suspect and the interviewer must be clearly aware of who is in charge, what the issue is, and what is at stake. If it is possible, it is beneficial to create some degree of confidence between the suspect and the interrogator. The more she trusts the official, the more she will open up. It must be made clear that it is in the suspect's best interest to cooperate. Explain why the suspect should give up information. Reasons can include threats of jail time, threats of danger on the streets if released, or something as simple as moral pressure.

Open Discussion

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Immediately following the initial building of rapport, an interrogator should allow the subject to describe in his own words the event or events in question. There should be no direction or interruption by the interviewer, who should listen carefully to all of the information that is provided.

General Questions

After hearing the first statement by the suspect, the interviewer should pose some general questions to fill in missing information. There may be some glaring holes in the suspect's story, and it is the job of the investigator to note any major discrepancies in the narrative. General questions should be posed to fill in the gaps. Do not jump on the discrepancies right away; digest the information you have been given and allow the suspect to reflect on what she has said.

Focused Questions

Once the general statement has been completed, it is time to move on to more focused and detail-oriented questions. The first round of detailed questions should be used to tie up any loose ends. The narrative may have some holes, so try to get a clear idea of the information the subject has provided. Go over any important details and make sure you have gotten everything you want out of the interview.

Extracting More Information

Now is the time to jump on any discrepancies or huge gaps in the suspect's narrative. She may have been lying to you, or you may have noticed that some parts of her story do not match up. If this is the case, wait until you have gathered as much information as possible while the suspect is cooperating. Then you can begin to become more aggressive. Let the suspect know where he slipped up and why it is in his best interest to fill in the gaps. Use the appropriate threats and pressure to extract additional confessions.

Finishing The Interrogation

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Once you have all the information you need, wrap up the interview. If the suspect has been cooperative, thank her for her help. If she has been difficult, you can assure her that there will be more follow-ups. Threats may not always work, but you can also play to a criminal mind by focusing on the suspect's ego or sense of guilt. It is up to you to decide if the good cop or bad cop routine is going to work. Determine what buttons to push, and be aggressive at all times. No matter what, you have to maintain control in order to conduct a successful interrogation.


David Thyberg began his writing career in 2007. He is a professional writer, editor and translator. Thyberg has been published in various newspapers, websites and magazines. He enjoys writing about social issues, travel, music and sports. Thyberg holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh Honors College with a certificate in Spanish and Latin American studies.

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