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January / February 2018 (click here for normal version)
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The flexibility and effectiveness of the Reid Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation is what makes it the most widely used investigative interviewing technique in the world.
The Reid Nine-Steps of interrogation is a proven structured approach that provides the investigator with a psychological road map to the truth. It has become the ‘gold standard’ to which all other methods are measured. This investigator tip will discuss the importance of Step One of the Reid Nine-Steps of interrogation. Although Step One is very brief, representing about ten seconds of the interrogation process, the language used in those ten seconds could make the difference between success and failure. There are three basic components to Step One: the opening statement, the observation, and the transition. This investigator tip will focus on the language used in the opening statement. We will discuss the observation and transition statement in future investigator tips.
In general terms an investigation begins with a review of the case facts and evidence in an effort to identify the various individuals who should be interviewed (see Nov/Dec 2017 Investigator Tip “Factual Analysis”). Potential interview subjects include the victim, any witnesses and potential suspects.
The interview is a non-accusatory information gathering conversation designed to develop investigative and behavioral information. (For a more detailed discussion of the Behavior Analysis Interview see Investigator Tips ‘The Reid Behavior Analysis Interview” (July/Aug 2014) and “Conducting A Custodial Behavior Analysis Interview” (Jan/Feb 2008)). The investigator goes to great lengths to avoid being judgmental, challenging, or accusatory to any of the suspect’s statements during the interview. Following the interview, investigative steps may be taken to determine the credibility of information provided during the interview, such as the suspect’s alibi. When the investigative information and evidence indicate a suspect’s probable involvement in the commission of the crime the investigator may choose to transition into the second phase of the process - the interrogation.
The expression ‘One size does not fit all’ comes to mind when considering the flexibility of Step One. There are some instances when it would be advantageous for the investigator to be very direct with the subject in the opening statement and there are other times when it would be in the best interest for the investigator to be less direct in the opening statement. To provide the investigator with the best opening statement for his situation, we offer four fundamentally different opening statements that can be used to initiate the Reid Nine-Steps of interrogation. The opening statement in Step One represents the first time that the investigator is expressing any judgment or opinion regarding the subject’s involvement in the incident under investigation.
These are the four opening statement options to choose from to initiate the interrogation process:
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these four statements. Therefore, the investigator should evaluate the circumstances of each case to decide which statement will give them the best chance of success securing the truth from the subject.
As you can see some statements are more provocative than others. However, each statement is communicating to the subject the investigator’s opinion or judgment, based on the investigation, that the subject knows more information regarding the incident under investigation than they have revealed up to this point.
The least provocative statement is Statement 1 - “As a result of the investigation that we have conducted, and considering the information you gave me during our interview, the investigation indicates that there are some areas that we need to clarify.”
The most provocative statement is Statement 4 - “I have in this file the results of our investigation into the (issue). The results of this investigation clearly indicate that you are the person who (committed the offense).”
If the subject’s attitude in the interview was defensive, argumentative, uncooperative, and in general combative then the investigator may consider using the less direct approach. Also, if the subject is in custody and has been read his Miranda rights, the investigator should consider whether the suspect may invoke their right to an attorney and refuse to talk to the investigator if the more provocative and direct opening statement is used, i.e. “I have in this file the results of our investigation into the (issue). The results of this investigation clearly indicate that you are the person who (committed the offense).”
While there is a degree of ‘shock and awe’ to this direct opening statement, and it will serve to clearly communicate to the subject the confidence the investigator has in the strength of their case, it might be at the expense of stopping the interrogation ‘cold’ if the subject asks for an attorney. If it is a non-custodial interrogation the investigator should consider whether the subject will terminate the conversation and walk out of the room if the more direct opening statement is used.
The most significant advantage to the more direct opening statement is the value of the subject’s initial response. This value is significantly eroded when the less direct approach is used. Therefore, the investigator should also consider the strength of their case. If the case is purely circumstantial then the investigator may choose to take the risk of the subject invoking their right to an attorney or walking out in exchange for the value of the initial behavioral response. For example, when the investigator makes it clear to the subject, via the direct opening statement, that the results of the investigation clearly show the subject committed the crime and the subject offers a weak denial or no denial at all, it is a strong reinforcement to the investigator of the subject’s probable guilt.
This assessment is lost, however, when using the less direct approach. When advising a suspect that ‘there are some areas that need to be clarified’, most subjects will not offer any immediate denial or resistance to that statement because of its ambiguity.
There are several factors to consider when selecting the proper language that should be used in the opening statement of the interrogation. The following is a discussion of five of the more common factors to consider.
Choosing which opening statement to use in Step One can set the stage for the remainder of the interrogation, so careful thought should be exercised in deciding on the exact words that should be used in this opening statement.
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