The traditional methods for conducting interrogations have evolved over time, from issuing the Miranda rights, to working in a more neutral, professional room for custodial interviews, there are plenty of examples for how the public safety industry is reworking their processes to better align with today’s high standards for legal and ethical standards.
In recent years, we’ve seen an even greater emphasis on building rapport with suspects during interrogations. Rather than relying solely on confrontational techniques, agencies are deciding to adopt new, research-based practices, including rapport-building interview techniques. The result: increased efficiency and more effective, reliable evidence for the court.
Examples of Law Enforcement Rapport-Building Techniques
The importance of developing mutual respect throughout an investigative interview cannot be overstated. Oftentimes, that hinges on building rapport. The right techniques can help establish a level of comfort, which ultimately makes the entire interview process more efficient and worthwhile. Effective communication might include any and all of the following:
- Asking open-ended questions and listening actively
- Using encouragers (e.g., nodding, saying “mm-hmm,” or repeating key words)
- Summarizing the subject’s account to demonstrate understanding
- Allowing for silence and avoiding interruptions / Creating space for subject disclosure
- Finding similarities / Expressing empathy without condoning illegal behavior
The purpose of rapport building is to create an environment in which the suspect feels comfortable enough to disclose information and provide details that they might otherwise have withheld. That being said, rapport building should not be used as a tactic to manipulate or deceive suspects. The right training can help public safety teams master these skills, and quickly and compliantly gather the evidence they need to bring the case to resolution.
Fostering a Cooperative, Productive Dialogue
When a suspect feels at ease with the interviewer, they may be more willing to share additional details about the crime or their personal involvement. In addition, the ability to establish rapport can also help victims and witnesses to feel more comfortable sharing their stories, and asking questions or seeking clarification. This can lead to a much more productive dialogue—and again, even more valuable evidence for the court to review.
Rapport building is a fundamental part of creating a comfortable and non-confrontational environment that encourages open communication. From there, any suspect, victim, or witness can begin to drop their guard. The interview process may never be “easy,” but overcoming defensiveness or resistance will always be a critical part of solving the crime, obtaining a conviction, or determining innocence.
Deliver Even Better Interview Evidence
The goal of any interrogation is to obtain truthful and accurate information, not to manipulate or trick the suspect into a false confession. And while building rapport is crucial for bringing interrogation techniques into the modern era, another significant change is the use of recording devices during interrogations.
There should never be any doubt or question as to whether the interview practices were compliant. But if concerns ever do arise, agencies equipped with audio video interview recording solutions can protect themselves against accusations of control, deception, or manipulation during the interrogation process. With an accurate record of what was said during the interrogation, and proof that the interview subject was physically safe, agencies can dispel any accusations of noncompliance.
Law enforcement’s mission to protect and serve continues to help our communities thrive. The work never stops, and yet the future is bright!