Category Archives: Criminal Investigation

Conducting Successful Interrogations

By David Vessel, J. D.

This article originally appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Oct. 1998, and appears on the internet at

SA Vessel

Obtaining information that an individual does not want to provide constitutes the sole purpose of an interrogation. A successful interrogation results in a guilty or involved criminal suspect’s making a confession or admitting participation in an illegal activity. However, interrogators frequently do not acquire information critical to successful case resolution. Often, guilty suspects leave the interrogation environment without making the smallest admission. Many experienced officers leave an interview or interrogation knowingly outwitted by the suspects. When these situations occur, criminals go unpunished and remain free to strike again, causing the entire community to suffer.

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Interview Training Cruise Tentatively Scheduled for 2014

“Lies & Lie Detection; Navigating your way to the Truth within Interviews and Interrogations”

This will be a 5 day/4 night cruise from New York City to St. John in Canada during which there will be 12 training sessions from professionals within the field covering topics such as; Detecting Deception and the Psychology of Deceit, Human Memory and Truthful Recall of Information; Investigative Interviewing Foundation and Key Principles  Obtaining Information through Cognitive Interviewing/MCI; Language and Lying within Statements & Interviews; Statement Analysis Workshops; Micro Expressions & Emotions within Interviews; Body Language and Detecting Deception; Forced-Choice Testing; Persuasive Interviewing – Ethical Tactics and Strategies; False Confessions – Causes and Prevention; Directing and Supervising the Interview Process.

Tentative dates: August 28th through September 1st, 2014.

Click Here to Learn More

Statement Analysis: What Do Suspects’ Words Really Reveal?

By Susan H. Adams, M.A.
Special Agent Adams teaches statement analysis as part of interviewing and interrogation courses at the FBI Academy.

This Article Originally Appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October 1996.

(In statement analysis, investigators examine words, independent of case facts, to detect deception.)

Susan Smith stood outside her burgundy sedan and released the parking brake. The car plunged down the ramp into South Carolina’s Long Lake, with her sons, Michael, 3, and Alexander, 14 months, strapped into their car seats. To cover her actions, Susan told police that the boys were abducted at gunpoint, launching a nationwide search for the victims and their abductor. During the investigation, Susan tearfully told reporters, “My children wanted me. They needed me. And now I can’t help them.”1

Yet, the boys’ father, David, who believed Susan’s story, tried to reassure her by saying: “They’re okay. They’re going to be home soon.”2

Police subsequently arrested Susan for the murder of her children. She was tried and convicted and is currently serving a life sentence in a South Carolina correctional institution. Many investigators use a technique called “statement analysis” to discern the truth in statements like the ones given by Susan and David Smith. In statement analysis, investigators examine words, independent of case facts, to detect deception. They also remain alert for information omitted and question why the suspect may have done so. Investigators then analyze the clues unintentionally provided by a suspect and use this insight during the subsequent interview. Continue reading

Interrogations and Touchdowns; a Comparison between Football and Getting Confessions

By Wesley Clark

No, I’m not talking about sacking your suspect in the hopes of getting a confession, that would be unsportsmanlike conduct, but there are many parallels that can be drawn between these two seemingly different activities.

First off, nobody makes it to the NFL without practice and training; and for the few that do make it to that level, the practice and training continues throughout their career. Over the course of their career the payers practice for thousands of hours, which adds up to months and years of consistent training throughout their careers. How many hours of training on interviews and interrogations does the average police officer get in his or her career? Well, in most police academies they will be lucky to get two or three hours, and if they get promoted to detective (kind of like the NFL for cops), they will probably be sent to a three or five day interview and interrogation course and that will be it. As professionals in law enforcement, we have to up our game and consistently seek out training throughout our careers to keep improving our skill level and effectiveness at conducting interviews and interrogations. Continue reading

Deceptive but Truthful: Is it Possible?

A Tangled Web

Detective Wesley Clark
Connecticut State Police Department
Western District Major Crime Squad

The Question is Raised

This may sound like an oxymoron, however in light of the adjoining article, “Statement Analysis Put to the Test, a Case Study”, I felt this question should be addressed. With this statement – Deceptive but Truthful – I am raising the question; If a statement is found to have many indications of deception, does that mean that the event reported did not happen? The answer is NO! Continue reading

Deception and its Detection

Detective Wesley Clark
Connecticut State Police
Western District Major Crime Squad

This article originally appeared in Connecticut Trooper Magazine, Fall 1998.

As a member of the law enforcement community for the past twelve years, I have made it my commitment to seek the truth in all matters, personal and professional. During my career I have encountered, as all other police officers throughout the state and country, those individuals who do not necessarily hold tight to the same values when it comes to truth. Though the reasons for this deception may vary, as do the investigations in which they arise, the intent of the subject in question is always the same; to mislead you and/or your investigation. As a detective with an ever-increasing caseload, that is something I am not willing to accept. With Statement Analysis as one additional tool available to you in your pursuit of the truth, you will be able to focus your investigations and reach an accurate conclusion to many cases. Continue reading

Caught on Tape

Using Criminals’ Videos Against Them

By Edward F. Davis, M.S., and Anthony J. Pinzotto, Ph.D.

This article originally appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, November, 1998.

In Sparta, Michigan, a 16-year-old high school dropout with a criminal record bludgeons a man to death, then cuts off his head. At home, the youth repeatedly slashed the severed head with a butcher knife, and removes the brain. Detectives recover the head wrapped in plastic outside the youth’s home. [1]

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, five teenagers vandalize and burglarize eight homes and a school. During their escapades, they blow up a live sea trout in a microwave and get a dog high on marijuana. [2] Continue reading

Burglary Investigations

By Daryl W. Clemens

Burglary defined

Burglary is sometimes also known as Home Invasion, or Breaking and Entering. The unlawful entry into the premises of another with intent to commit a felony (usually larceny) therein.


Burglaries represent one of the more common crimes to which patrol officers respond. Someone has returned home from an evening out and found the doors open and their property missing. The police are called, and an investigation is begun. Continue reading

Arson Investigation

Written by Katherine Steck-Flynn

The Fire

Arson investigation starts with the fire itself. To create and sustain a fire three factors must be present. The three factors are known as the fire triangle (Peige ed., 1977). The fire triangle consists of oxygen, a fuel source, and heat. In most cases the percentage of oxygen concentration must be above 16% (Peige, ed., 1977). The fuel may be any flammable substance. The heat source needs only to match the ignition temperature of the fuel.

In a fire involving arson the arsonist will have tampered with one or more of the factors in the fire triangle. The arsonist may increase the fuel load by introducing flammable material or by adding accelerants such as kerosene, gasoline or alcohol (French, 1979) The arsonist may increase the oxygen content of a structure by opening windows or punching holes in ceilings and walls (French, 1979) Fire will follow the highest concentration of oxygen to its source. By ventilating a structure at the top and starting a fire at the bottom of the structure an arsonist can cause the fire to race upward through the structure. The fire will rapidly involve the whole structure rather than be confined to one room. Continue reading

Violent Crime Scene Analysis: Modus Operandi, Signature, and Staging

By John E. Douglas, Ed.D. Special Agent
Chief of the Investigative Support Unit FBI Academy


Corinne Munn
Served as Honors Intern FBI Academy

This Article Originally Appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, February 1992.

Most crime scenes tell a story. And like most stories, crime scenes have
characters, a plot, a beginning, a middle, and hopefully, a conclusion. However,
in contrast to authors who lead their readers to a predetermined ending,
the final disposition of a crime scene depends on the investigators assigned
to the case. The investigators’ abilities to analyze the crime scene and
to determine the who, what, how, and why govern how the crime scene story

To ensure a satisfactory ending, that is, the apprehension and prosecution
of the violent crime offender, investigators must realize that the outcome
depends on their insight into the dynamics of human behavior. Speech patterns,
writing styles, verbal and nonverbal gestures, and other traits and patterns
give shape to human behavior. These individual characteristics work in concert
to cause each person to act, react, function, or perform in a unique and
specific way. This individualistic behavior usually remains consistent,
regardless of the activity being performed. Continue reading