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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Interrogation: What Do Biden and Bad Interrogators Have In Common?

Really! What does V.P. Joe Biden and a bad interrogator have in common?  Think about the question and Biden’s performance in the recent Vice Presidential debate. Now think about how a poorly trained, bad interrogator carries out an interrogation. The parallels are obvious.

My question is not meant to be a political statement on V.P. Biden or the current presidential campaign.  If however, you look at the analysis of Biden’s behavior and demeanor during the debate by some communication experts and social scientists there are several very strong parallels.

First, Biden was criticized for the fact he would not even listen to any responses by Ryan before he began his rebuttal. The poor interrogator approaches the interview with the preconception that they already have all the facts they need and have already reached a conclusion about the subject’s innocence or guilt regarding the issue at hand. In the past, I have referred to this as the “preconception assassin syndrome.”  See Duke LaCrosse rape case and the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

Second, Biden was criticized for trying to force his conclusions on Ryan. The interrogator intends to enforce their conclusions on the subject they are interviewing.  They will not accept any other explanations.  The interrogator will accept no rebuttals and makes sure that the subject understands that it is futile to do so. God forbid that he or she should spend a little more time listening to their subject because they might learn something or hear some facts that disagree with their preconceived conclusions!

Third, Biden was criticized for being rude, dismissive, and condescending toward Ryan. The interrogator behaving the same way has little or no respect for the subject and will gain little or no rapport or cooperation or compromise with the subject.  The interrogator intends to prove that they are superior to the subject. The subject is an underling and beneath the station of their interrogator and therefore should know their place or certainly they will be put in their place by the interrogator. “Just who do you think you are?” “How dare you question me or challenge me?”  In the end this is an affirmation in the mind of the  interrogator that they are the superior individual in the conversation. Of course this works real well when you are trying to develop “rapport” with a subject and apply ethical influence or persuasion tactics that encourage cooperation and compliance.

Finally, for many viewers, Biden left the audience with a poor impression of who he is and what he stands.  In short, his message was lost because of what many observers called extreme, over the top, erattic behavior.  This type of interrogator will wind up being blindsided when the true facts of the case are revealed, or when a case is lost, a conviction is overturned, or when an innocent person is the victim of injustice, or the victim of the crime is not protected.  Of course the interrogator’s response is invariably the system failed, the judge or jury just doesn’t understand, there was nothing wrong with “my” work, etc.  One of my favorite statements is “I don’t interrogate innocent people.” Another is “that’s the way I or we have always done it.”

Can you say “coerced confession?”  Repeat after me “contaminated witness statements.”

It’s time we weeded out these type of interviewers and keep them out of our interview rooms and away from our witnesses.  It is also time we took a critical look at how we are training our interrogators because the accusatory tactics and mythological deception cues we teach during interview and interrogation training are the real genesis of these types of interrogators.

Regarding V.P. Biden… draw your own conclusions and vote accordingly!

Of course, this is just MY opinion!

Stan B. Walters,
“The Lie Guy®”
The Interview Room
Stan B. Walters Speaks


False Confessions: The “Get a Confession” Philosophy

When 25% of all the wrongful convictions overturned using DNA are the direct result of false confessions, then it’s time to look at police interview and interrogation training and techniques.

For more than 30 years, cases of wrongful conviction have been under the scrutiny of legal and criminal justice professionals and scholars.  One of the main contributing factors has consistently been identified as false confessions.  So why do we keep teaching the same flawed techniques?

One trend that I have seen for more than 30 years has been the persistent philosophy of investigators / interrogators that the sole objective of any interview or interrogation is to get a confession. Well, if that’s your only objective in an interrogation, rarely will you be disappointed!

Here’s the problem –

  1. Having an objective of “getting the confession” perpetuates a mindset on the part of the interviewer than there can be no other conclusions as to who is responsible for committing the crime.
  2. “Getting the confession” philosophy almost invariably leads to an accusatory style of interrogation which returns far less information that may be needed to progress a case criminally.
  3. “Getting the confession” philosophy and the inevitable accusatory style interrogation always winds up contaminating the subject’s behavior and responses because the interrogator exposes the subject to proprietary case information.
  4. Finally, “getting the confession” philosophy leads to the meme exposed by many interrogators and I might add their interrogation trainers that “they wouldn’t confess if they weren’t guilty!  In other words, it’s the suspect’s fault for falsely confessing.  I have actually heard this statement made by officers and interrogation trainers when asked about the problem of false confessions.

It is time to acknowledge that the perpetuation and persistence of false confession cases leads right back to our training academies.  “That’s they way we have always done it” doesn’t cut it as an excuse anymore!

Just my opinion because I am tired of seeing and hearing the crap taught in our academies. Those trainers and academies have to held accountable for ignoring the overwhelming evidence of failing to properly train interview and interrogation techniques and therefore result in such injustices.

Stan B. Walters,
“The Lie Guy®”
The Interview Room
Stan B. Walters Speaks