Recording interrogations is an important move, but if your interrogation room’s outdated, you’re less likely to have a confession to record! Let’s discuss how to design an interrogation room that get results.
Historically, interrogation rooms are stark places with concrete floors and metal tables. The fact that such rooms are often featured in suspense or action movies is a good example of why they’re a problem. Because there’s such a strong association with that type of room in the minds of most citizens, the person being questioned is constantly thinking about being in a police station. Design an interrogation room to look like an office or conference room. The familiarity of this environment makes subjects more likely to talk. It has a secondary benefit, too– when your digital recording is used as evidence, an office-like environment will look similarly non-threatening to the judge and/or jury, reducing any concern about coercion.
Another important factor is the location of the room. If it’s close to the sounds of police work—unruly subjects, cell doors opening and closing, etc., it’ll be a perpetual reminder of the consequences of the subject’s actions. You want them to forget long enough to drop their guard and tell you what happened.
Consider the furnishings of the room, as well. Many interrogation rooms are set up to seat the interviewee on the other side of a table from the officer. This gives them the comfort of distance, and a physical barrier to hide behind—literally. One reason recorded interrogations are so useful is because they document body language, so you don’t want the subject to have a table between them and the camera! Make sure they’re fully visible by putting a table, if you choose to have one, off to the side. Keep in mind that you make a better door than a window, so if you’re sitting near the suspect, know the camera’s line of sight, and don’t block it.
Cameras should not be obvious in the interrogation room. Strangely, a subject can know they’re being recorded and will still let their guard down, but if they can see the camera, it often shuts down discussion. (If you have a clock in the room, you might want to put that behind them; don’t face them toward your two-way glass, either.) There are a variety of ways to disguise a camera and hide a microphone in your interrogation room (one reason to have a table is that it’s a good place to hide a mic.)
Using these techniques creates the illusion that you and the subject are simply having a conversation. The familiar, even boring environment and the “bubble” you create reduce inhibitions in the subject. As a result, you’re more likely to get good information and a well-documented interrogation.
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