Troubleshooting Your Interrogations

You may already be using body and dashboard camera videos as a training aid. Fire departments and EMTs are picking up on the value of video as a training and troubleshooting tool, as well. Now it’s time to expand your thinking to include the value of interrogation room footage. The value of video as a training tool goes well beyond simply reviewing proper procedure. In the heat of the moment, we apply our training as best we can, but our perception of what’s going on in the interview room can be subjective and inaccurate. For this reason, videos of your own interrogations can be an invaluable resource. This week, we’ll offer some suggestions of what to look for to optimize your technique.

Reading the Cues
There are several factors you’ll want to consider when viewing a video of a past interrogation. The specific crime being investigated will, to some extent, dictate how you begin the interrogation, but when you look back over the footage, ask yourself: are you taking your cues from the suspect’s behavior? As we’ve mentioned before, this is a critical reason to consider the setup of the interview room. The more furniture there is, the more likely it is to screen your view of the suspect’s mannerisms. While reducing the furniture helps the camera to document the interview, it also offers you a better opportunity to “read” the suspect’s full body language.

Assessing Teamwork and Rapport
Video also gives you a bird’s eye view of the dynamic you create between yourself, any other law enforcement officer in the room, and the suspect. Upon review, you may find that you misread some cues, or that you and your fellow officer could function more effectively as a team if you made a few changes. Watch issues of timing, as well. Often, we don’t pause as long as we think we do before prompting a suspect for an answer. In easing our own discomfort with the wait time, we inadvertently offer the suspect an “out”. Or we think we’re establishing rapport when, from an outsider’s perspective, the suspect is still very much on guard. Since good rapport is 14 times more likely to yield a confession, the ability to go back and search for missteps is incredibly helpful.

Proactive Improvement
Video also allows you to go back and review your habits in light of new legislation, challenges that have arisen in court with regard to prior confessions, and even new research findings. As an example, while many interrogations tend to begin with more open-ended questions, there’s new data to indicate that people on the autism spectrum may actually need more direct questioning in order to process and answer effectively.

While body cams and dashboard cams help officers review critical incidents, effective interrogations build the cases that lead to successful prosecutions. Leveraging your law enforcement agency’s digital recording technology can up your game, and improve trial and sentencing outcomes.

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