By David Vessel, J. D.
This article originally appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Oct. 1998, and appears on the internet at http://www.fbi.gov/library/leb/leb.htm.
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.
By Susan H. Adams, M.A.
Special Agent Adams teaches statement analysis as part of interviewing and interrogation courses at the FBI Academy.
(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
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
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
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
By James R. Ryals, Commander
Long Beach, California, Police Department
Interviewing is one form of communication used extensively by law enforcement. Whether used to screen applicants, to elicit information from a witness to a crime, or to obtain a confession, a good interview can have a significant impact on the organization. However, if conducted improperly, the interview may be rendered worthless or can result in serious negative consequences for all involved.
There are certain guidelines to follow when conducting an interview. By adhering to the following basic rules, the interviewer can reduce many of the problems that might arise because of a faulty interview. Continue reading
By David D. Tousignant, M.A.
Inspector Lowell, Massachusetts, Police Department
Many criminal cases, even when investigated by the most experienced and best qualified investigators, are ultimately solved by an admission or confession from the person responsible for committing the crime. Often times, investigators are able to secure only a minimal amount of evidence, be it physical or circumstantial, that points directly to a suspect, and in many instances,this evidence is not considered strong enough by prosecutors to obtain a conviction. In such cases, the interrogation of the suspects and their subsequent confessions are of prime importance.
This article addresses the question of why suspects speak freely to investigators, and ultimately, sign full confessions. The physical and psychological aspects of confession and how they relate to successful interrogations of suspects are also discussed, as is the “breakthrough,” the point in the interrogation when suspects make an admission, no matter how minuscule, that begins the process of obtaining a full confession. Continue reading