Magazine article Security Management

Letters

Magazine article Security Management

Letters

Article excerpt

Interrogating the Interrogators

In response to my article, "Confessions of an Interrogator" (October 2002), two readers wrote critical letters to the editor (January). I would like to address these criticisms.

One writer felt the interrogation process I described in my article was outdated, and he questioned whether such confessions would stand up in court. He also took issue with the use of the terms "interrogation, confession," and "suspect." He offered the terms "interview, admissions" and "subject" as preferable. In light of his criticism, I suggest that "focused interview" better describes the interrogation process and differentiates it from an assessment interview. "Subject" may also carry with it a negative connotation. Perhaps "interviewee" would be a kinder and gender description. However, the bottom line is this: a rose is still a rose.

The correspondent goes on to say that "offering to help a subject if he confesses is nothing short of coercion, dishonest, unfair, and unnecessary." I am not sure what he is referring to by these remarks, but my technique comes from a "helping" approach. This does not mean we promise a person a reward for confessing. It means we believe that we are there to help the person. We believe it is in the perpetrator's best interest to be cooperative, remorseful, and truthful.

These behaviors generally result in psychological relief, lighter sentences, and, in many cases, nonprosecution. If that is not beneficial to the perpetrator, then I don't know what is. Obviously, our main goal is to solve the crime, but we have not lost our humanity and are not trying to accomplish this goal by obtaining a false confession.

The second writer comments that you need to build "rapport" with the suspect, that focusing on one suspect limits your suspect pool, and that a strong assertion of guilt by the interviewer puts the suspect on the defensive. This critic misunderstands the difference between the "interview" and the "interrogation." My article specifically address the latter. I believe I made that clear.

Prior to focusing on a particular suspect, the investigator would have performed assessment interviews. During these assessment interviews, rapport would have been established, personal and case-specific information would have been collected, and a quantitative assessment of that person's involvement would have been made. We do not advocate interrogating just for the sake of interrogating. …

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