Copyright © John Fay All Rights Reserved

Information Freebies



An interview is the gathering of information from a person who has knowledge concerning a matter under investigation. The person being interviewed usually gives, in his own manner and words, an account of the incident or provides details concerning another person connected to the incident.

During an investigation, you may need to question many types of witnesses such as victims, accusers, complainants, and informants. Your choice of questioning technique will be based not on the type of witness, but on the attitude and willingness of the witness to provide the information being sought. Expect to encounter difficulty when interviewing a person who resents authority, regards the interview as inconvenient and fears self-involvement.

Although physical evidence often plays a key role in an investigation, it has been consistently true that the most prolific and valuable sources of information are the people involved. The skilled investigator recognizes that human factors strongly influence the success or failure of an interview. Human factors include such variables as fear, reluctance, prejudice, revenge, hate, and love. An investigator who can figure out the variables and adjust the approach accordingly will excel at interviewing.

The complex motivations of people cause questioning to be an art rather than a science. Recognizing the subtle signals sent out by a witness is the first step on the path leading to truth. More important than anything else is an ability to correctly assess what the interviewee wants, what he/she is afraid of, and what is going on inside the person's head. This is not an easy task. Performing the task well is founded on a base of knowledge sharpened through training and practice. Ideally, the investigator will know basic psychology and be a keen observer of persons.

In addition to the obstacles mentioned above are the witnesses’ perception, memory, stress and prejudice. Perception is conditioned by the abilities to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Perception is also affected by the location of the viewer in relation to the incident, the amount of time intervening between occurrence and interview, and the nature of events that occur during the interval between occurrence and interview.

Because memory erodes over time, interviews should be conducted as quickly as practicable. Memory not only fades; it becomes colored, either consciously or unconsciously by what the witness was exposed to after the incident. Remarks made by other witnesses or newspaper accounts may cause an interviewee to fill in the gaps of personal memory with details about which he/she has no direct knowledge. A witness may even form an opinion of guilt or innocence and shape testimony accordingly. This possibility is reduced when the interview is conducted soon, that is, before the witness has time to form personal judgments that distort the truth.

A person subjected to stressful, exciting, or injurious events after observing an incident is likely to forget details. To illustrate, assume a pedestrian observes a speeding motorist strike another pedestrian and drive away from the scene. The witness is caught up in a series of actions in which he or she might render first aid and transport the injured victim to the hospital. What the witness experienced in the immediate aftermath may cause a faulty recollection concerning the hit and run vehicle.

It is not unreasonable to expect every witness to be prejudiced to some degree. The strength and targets of prejudice vary among people. You should be alert to prejudice and deal with it when it surfaces. One way to keep information from being distorted by prejudice is to require detailed, specific answers. If allowed to talk in generalities, a prejudiced person will make statements that are partially accurate and partially misleading. By remaining within a narrow line of discussion aimed at a specific issue, you force the witness to respond with information free of bias.

Preparing for the Interrogation

Interrogation should be conducted out of sight and hearing of other persons, particularly accomplices and should be conducted on the interrogator's territory. When this is not possible, neutral territory can be used. Very few circumstances permit interrogation on the suspect's territory.

Prepare Mentally

Careful mental preparation is absolutely and unequivocally required before interrogating. Mental preparation involves:

•       Developing a full knowledge of case facts by, for example, studying the statements of witnesses, notes, sketches, photographs, documents, and forensic findings.

•       Mentally reconstructing the commission of the incident. Anticipating denials.

•       Preparing a list of logically ordered topics to be covered during the interrogation.

•       Preparing a list of questions for each topic.


The general rule is to question witnesses first and the suspect last. But you can bend the rule when you think that early questioning will keep the suspect from fabricating an alibi or synchronizing a story with accomplices.

The timing of an interrogation should rely on advantages to be gained. Ask yourself "If I interrogate now, what advantages can I gain?" Potential advantages are discerned from weighing many factors, such as the evidence at hand, your readiness, and the vulnerability of the suspect. Interrogating is like waging a war, and winning the war is often a matter of knowing when to attack.

Evaluate the Suspect

Generally speaking, physiological changes that occur in a suspect's body are stronger with persons of high intelligence. This does not mean that the indicators of deception are always more visible; the intelligent suspect may possess a well-developed capacity to conceal inner tension. A suspect with low intelligence may not understand he/she/ is under attack or may not appreciate the full extent of the danger.

A suspect may be emotionally unstable as the result of something entirely separate from the matter under investigation, and it is always difficult to interpret the behavioral signals of an emotionally unstable person. The non-verbal forms of communication exhibited by an unstable person are exactly opposite of a stable person.

Some behavioral signals have cultural or ethnic roots. A gesture might appear to be a deceptive signal when in fact it was a typical, normal expression used by the individual during his interactions with other persons of the same culture or ethnic background.

When a suspect is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there may be a delay in the response time between stimulus (question) and reaction (deceptive signal). If you believe a suspect is under the influence, terminate the interrogation.

Arrange the Environment

Furniture and seating arrangements should be such as to place the interrogator in a comfortable, psychologically dominant position in relation to the suspect. The physical environment should be interrogator-friendly and provide privacy. It should have clerical assistance, people nearby to serve as observers, and audio/video equipment. An interrogation room is typically plain, but comfortably furnished, and devoid of pictures or items that can distract attention. A room used only for interrogating often will have a built-in two-way mirror. The room must be neither so hot nor so cold as to permit later contentions that information was extracted through physical discomfort. Furniture should consist of three comfortable chairs and a table large enough to write on but not large enough for the suspect to use the table as a psychological barrier. Items that will be needed, such as pens, paper, and forms, should be in place prior to beginning. If the room is equipped with a telephone, it should be disconnected or removed for the purpose of eliminating interruption. Any item in the room that could be used as a weapon must be removed.

Conduct the Interrogation

Interrogation can be time-consuming but this is hardly a reason for hurrying through. A time limit should not be set but neither should the length of the interrogation suggest in any way that the suspect had been denied basic human needs such as rest, food, drink, and toilet use.

The suspect should be seated at the side of a table where you can fully observe body language. If there is a window in the interrogation room, chairs should be arranged so that window light falls on the face of the suspect rather than your face. Chair arrangement should also preclude the suspect from being able to gaze out a window.

Control of the interrogation is in great measure dependent on the initial impression made by you. Because first impressions are important, your appearance must be such that an aura of competence and self-confidence is projected. Your opening remarks should be appropriate in terms of how you evaluate the suspect. For example, a suspect who considers himself or herself superior to you may be addressed by his last name, instructed to sit, instructed not to smoke, and manipulated in ways that quickly establish you as the person in charge.

The degree of success or failure at eliciting information is linked to your ability to estimate the probable guilt of the person to be interrogated. Is the individual a possible suspect or a darn good suspect? The answer to the question may be found in a close look at what you already have such as witness statements and physical evidence. The answer may also come from your experience as an investigator and what your inner voice is saying.

Also of importance is your ability to select and employ communication approaches that correctly correspond to the suspect’s personality and attitude. This ability rests largely on your training, practical experience, psychological insight, and pure native ability. Many investigators refer to these factors as the “key” that allows passage through a door into the heart and mind of the suspect. Finding the correct key and opening the door at the critical moment epitomizes very great skill.

Interrogation Approaches and Tactics:

Direct Approach

A direct approach is normally used to interrogate a suspect whose guilt is reasonably certain. A crime that falls into the category of “reasonable certainty” is often opportunistic in nature, involves a single offense, and is committed without an accomplice.

In the direct approach you assume an air of complete confidence with regard to evidence or witness statements that point to the suspect. You emphasize the strength of the evidence and how it implicates the suspect beyond any doubt. Acting in a brisk and accusatory manner, you state that an admission is not really important because the quantity and quality of evidence already on hand is more than enough to bring the investigation to an end. The purpose of the meeting, according to you, is not to learn if the suspect committed the offense, but to learn why. The meeting is therefore an opportunity for the suspect to tell "the other side of the story."

Indirect Approach

An indirect approach is generally more successful when interrogating a suspect whose guilt is questionable. In the indirect approach, your questioning is designed to establish a detailed account of the suspect's activities prior to, during, and after the offense occurred. Facts that are definitely known should be used in formulating questions to test the suspect's reactions. Guilt is suggested if the suspect lies regarding an established fact.

A problem in carrying out this approach is the possibility that the suspect's involvement is peripheral, i.e., the suspect was a minor actor in the commission of the offense. When this is the situation, you probably possess sketchy facts. Working with inconclusive information is tricky and hazardous to a fruitful interrogation. A large hazard is an appearance that the evidence is weak and you are off track.

Sympathy Tactic

Information-eliciting tactics are limited by laws and ethical standards and in some cases, the policy of your client. In the latter case, the suspect may be an employee of a large company and your client it's owner. The client may prefer to let the suspect get by than to convey to the workforce an image of a bullying employer.

Before deciding to use a questionable tactic, you would do well to think: "Could this tactic cause an innocent person to admit guilt?” A yes answer rules out use of the tactic.

The sympathy tactic is appropriate when the offense was committed in the heat of passion. Offenses involving violence have emotional overtones that can be exploited by sympathy and understanding. For example, you can describe the offending act as only one of many similar acts committed by lots of people; that the act is forgivable, understandable, very human, completely out of character for the suspect, and not likely to ever occur again.

The suspect is described as a clearly rational person, as virtuous as anyone else, and surely sorry for what happened. An explanation by the suspect is encouraged because it may cast the incident in a true light and may help the suspect assuage emotional pain.

Sympathy can be mixed with references to evidence linking the suspect to the offense. Signs of stress and nervous tension can be pointed out to the suspect as indicators of a need to clear the air. Employ euphemisms in place of emotionally charged words like steal, punch, grope, and stab.

A first offender may be amenable to these tactics for the simple reason it is natural for a person to be penitent in the aftermath of an offense, especially when it is a first offense. A suspect who has never been interrogated may perceive you as a newly found friend rather than an adversary. You can show empathy, which in fact may be entirely forthright. Many people, especially youthful offenders, have been turned away from a wrong path by caring investigators.

Reasoning Tactic

 In this tactic the suspect is told that proof of guilt has been or will soon be established, the only sensible option is to confess, and a failure to cooperate is not in the suspect’s best interest. Every denial is met with refuting logic and facts. You display or allude to proof of guilt reflected in witness statements, photographs, documents, and similar materials. If the suspect has lied, point that out. Point out other indicators of guilt such as sweating, twitching, crossed arms, dry tongue, eye-avoidance, and withdrawal. 

For further information, please visit:





Kinesics is the study of body language and is based on the behavioral patterns of nonverbal communication. Body language can include any non-reflexive or reflexive movement of a part or all of the body. Body language can be particularly revealing when a person communicates an emotional message to the outside world. Actions speak louder than words, and it's not what the subject says but how it is said that counts.


The psychological assumptions underlying kinesics are:

•       The deceptive person who experiences physiological changes resulting from his fear of detection will regard the interrogation as a threat, i.e., an intensification of fear;

•       The deceptive person's fears intensify during interrogation at moments when questioning focuses on investigative details having the greatest immediate threat to the person's self-preservation;

•       The deceptive person is aware of physiological changes occurring in the body and may do or say things as a means to disguise the changes; and

•       The deceptive person who does not experience fear during an interrogation will not exhibit any of the body movements that can be associated with deception.


The guilty subject has a general fear of an investigation. When the investigation calls for an interrogation of the guilty subject, the fear intensifies. During the interrogation, the guilty subject's immediate anxieties and apprehensions are directed toward those questions that present the greatest threat to exposure. In other words, a guilty person's fear of detection increases as the investigation proceeds from the general to the specific.


The deceptive person will tune in on questions that indicate trouble or danger. His mental attention and sensory organs are anticipating particular questions. There is a tendency to tune out questions that are of a lesser threat and to concentrate on questions that lead to exposure.


The interpretation of body language is a normal and necessary function, particularly when interrogating. Kinesics, the study of body language, in recent years has gained prominence in law enforcement, security, human resources, psychology, and psychiatry.


A form of nonverbal communication, body language appears as reflexive and non-reflexive movements of a part or all of the body. Interpreted correctly, such movements can reveal a person’s true inner thoughts. The application of kinesics to interrogating can be enormously helpful in differentiating between truth and deception.


Body language can only be understood within context, which may be situational, the immediate environment, and effects upon the suspect by social and cultural influences. The average person, being unschooled in the nuances of body language, will often misinterpret the signals. A glance, a smile, and a raised eyebrow are signals but each can have different meanings when they appear in different contexts. A smile in one circumstance may reveal happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction; in another it might mean cynicism or disbelief.


People use body language as signals of their thoughts and feelings. Some are deliberate and calculated, such as a frown to indicate disapproval, and some are unconscious such as a crossing of the arms to indicate the presence of a threat. Unconscious signals tend to be subtle and indistinguishable to the untrained eye.


In-depth treatment of kinesics requires considerable demonstration and practice


The interrogator cannot always know what questions will produce fear in the guilty subject. As the line of questioning moves closer to the issues having the greatest psychological threat to the subject, there is likely to be an increase in the number and intensity of deceptive behaviors.


Personal Space


Body language signals appear in threatening situations, increasing in frequency and intensity as the threat draws nearer. They can be likened to signals displayed by territorial animals under attack. Man, being a highly territorial animal, attempts to control his personal spheres, most especially the home and workplace.


Within those spheres are smaller spheres, such as the bedroom and, most notably, the invisible bubble immediately surrounding the body. The personal bubble is the most inviolable of spheres. Threats to the bubble, whether by physical or psychological intrusion, are answered with body language signals.


How we defend our bubble, how we react to an invasion of it, and how we encroach into the bubbles of other people are observable and subject to evaluation. Guarding our bubble is a survival imperative.


At an intimate distance, two persons cannot help being overwhelmingly aware of each other. If such contact takes place between two men, it can lead to awkwardness and uneasiness, if not hostility. Between a man and a woman, such as husband and wife, close physical proximity can be natural and welcome. In short, distance and context count when interpreting body language.


Whether we know or approve of it, we cannot entirely suppress or conceal our body language. An encroaching individual, such as an interrogator who leans in close to the suspect’s face (a physical intrusion) or whose question probes close to a hidden truth (a psychological intrusion), may trigger in the suspect a series of body language signals ranging from finger and toe tapping, twitching, leg swinging, and body rocking. The signals are saying: "You are getting too near, I am uneasy." If the intrusion continues, the next series of signals may be closed eyes, withdrawal of the chin into the chest, and hunching of the shoulders. They say, "You are in my space. Watch out."


If you ignore the signals, the “flee or fight” mechanism may kick in, e.g., the suspect will move away or respond belligerently.




Body language and spoken language are nearly always intertwined. A comment made without a body signal has a lesser meaning than a comment accompanied by a gesture. In the very simplest sense, a promise to punch you in the nose is more threatening when it is accompanied by the waving of a clenched fist.


Research indicates there are no more than about 30 traditional American gestures, with even fewer body postures that carry any significance, and that each gesture or posture will occurs in a limited number of situations.


Eye Signals


The eyes are rated the most revealing body part; they transmit important signals and do so in ways ranging from extreme subtlety to unmistakable clarity. While the eyeball itself reveals little, the muscles around the eyes reveal a great deal. Much can be learned from a raised eyebrow or a squint – provided we understand the context. A very important eye signal is the stare. From a suspect under interrogation it could mean – again depending on context – disbelief, anger, or defiance. From the interrogator to the suspect, a stare could be saying, “I am waiting for your answer and I’m getting impatient.”


The stare is a cultural taboo. No one likes being stared at. It is very normal to stare at a painting, a dog, or the Moon, but it is neither normal nor acceptable to stare at a fellow human being. The cultural aspect of the stare confers to it special status.


Body Signals


A body language signal is like a word in a sentence. The true meaning of the word cannot be established without knowing all of the other words in the sentence. Like words, body language signals are sent in groups, and the sending is a response to a stimulus. Knowing the stimulus, reading the set of signals, and understanding the context are parts of the interpretive process.


Underlying Principles


A guilty person, when immediately facing possible exposure, will experience physiological changes that cannot be controlled such as a rise in blood pressure and respiration, contraction of the bowels, and release of adrenaline.


The physiological changes trigger body language signals, such as sweating, lip wetting, twitching, and finger and toe tapping, and verbal signals such as “It sure is hot in here” or “I must have eaten something bad this morning.”


A rise in the fear of exposure intensifies the physiological changes and produces a rise in signals and new signals such as crossed arms, hunched shoulders, eye-avoidance, and comments that might start with “To be perfectly honest” or conclude with “And that’s God’s truth.”


Many strong signals are sent through speech. The content of speech can be significant but a much greater significance can be attached to the manner of speech. How something is said can be more revealing than what is said.


An innocent person will experience none or a much lower level of the physiological changes. Body language signals will reflect outrage as opposed to fear, and the verbal signals might include statements like “You must be crazy” and “I don’t have to tolerate this nonsense. I’m outta here.”


A deceptive person may try to reduce tension by:

•       Licking lips.

•       Swallowing.

•       Scratching, pinching and stroking.

•       Pulling head hair, ear lobes and nose.

•       Wringing hands.

•       Drumming fingers.

•       Bouncing legs.

•       Tapping toes.

•       Adjusting clothing, watch, ring, etc.

•       Chewing and inspecting nails.

•       Covering mouth or eyes.

•       Looking away.


A person’s attitude can indicate deception or truth. The deceptive person will:

•       Be guarded.

•       Hesitate before answering a question.

•       Pretend to be unconcerned.

•       Rationalize the offense; make it appear to be less than it really is.

•       Be uncooperative.

•       Unwilling to talk.


On the other hand, the truthful person will:

•       Be sincere.

•       Be quick to answer questions.

•       Be composed.

•       Be helpful.

•       Be unyielding in denial.

•       Give consistent answers.

•       Recognize the offense for what it really is.


Kinesics holds that all humans everywhere engage in nonverbal communication. Body language is partly instinctive and partly learned through imitation. To the untrained eye, body language is largely invisible. For the skilled investigator, body language can be a rich source for determining truth.

For further information, please visit:



Note Taking


Notes should be taken during an interrogation. A skillful interrogator will take notes unobtrusively, i.e., in a manner that does not impede the interrogation such as causing the suspect to be distracted or fearful. An alternative is note taking by an observer sitting behind or out of sight of the suspect.


If you have a good memory, you can make bullet-point notes as the interrogation progresses, but they may have to be expanded upon in the immediate aftermath of the interrogation, while your memory is still fresh. A variation of this technique is to prepare ahead of time a list of bullet points, leaving sufficient space for notes to be made next to them.


Whatever technique you use, be sure that note taking occurs throughout the entire interrogation, not just when the suspect makes a pertinent disclosure or an incriminating remark.


Notes that you take during an interrogation are called original notes; notes prepared later are not. The distinction is that original notes can be used on the stand while testifying; notes prepared later cannot. A problem might be created if you take non-original notes to the stand. Upon discovering this, opposing counsel might ask that the original notes be produced. Any discrepancy, no matter how small, between the original notes and non-original notes can be used by opposing counsel to discredit your testimony.


In light of this possibility, it is better to use an alternate term when referring to notes prepared later; for example, a memorandum or progress report.

For further information, please visit:



How to Take a Written Statement


Ideally, a written statement comes from the mind of the suspect, placed on paper by the suspect, and signed by the suspect. In some circumstances, the suspect may be unable or unwilling to write a statement but may agree to sign a statement prepared by you or an observer. Very important in such a scenario is to ensure that the statement is accurate, complete, and that the wording is that of the suspect. Notes taken during the interrogation may be used to clarify key points. Specific questions can be put to the suspect, with the answers entered on the written statement in the suspect’s own words.


The most incriminating type of statement is a full confession, written in the hand of the suspect, in the words of the suspect, sworn to under oath, signed and initialed by the suspect, and witnessed by you and one other person. Although prized, this type of statement is out of the norm; suspects simply do not like to write their own confessions. For most investigators, this refusal by the suspect can be turned to good advantage: type or handwrite a statement while you ask questions with the suspect observing. If the suspect signs the statement you constructed, you are ahead of the game. If the suspect declines to sign, you at least have a record of what transpired or leads to be developed.


In constructing such a statement, you need to use the words of the suspect, common sense calls for inclusion of words and the use of grammar reflective of the suspect’s general vocabulary. A confession obtained from a suspect having a sixth grade education is regarded skeptically when it includes large words and highly complex sentences. If a suspect speaks with profanity, the typed statement can contain profanity. Actual sentences are included as much as possible but do not have to appear in the same order given by the suspect.


Hand the statement to the suspect and ask him/her to read it. Ask for any comments that would change or add to the statement for the purpose of making it full and accurate. Changes or additions stipulated are placed at the end of the statement.


Give the statement to the suspect and ask for initials on changes, additions, corrected cross-outs, and typing errors. Also ask for initials at the bottom and top of each page.


Then ask the suspect to sign the statement. If you get a refusal, ask for a verbal acknowledgement. If the suspect refuses to do even this, you and the observer should so indicate the refusal on the statement and in your notes.




Making a record of an interrogation includes, among other actions, retaining and protecting all written materials prepared incidental to the interrogation. These would include notes and sketches made by yourself and an observer, if present. It would also include anything written by the suspect such as a map showing how he/she approached and left the scene. Most importantly, of course, would be a signed, written statement of the suspect. In some situations, it may be advisable to prepare your own written statement to clarify matters that later may be confusing to your client, the client's attorney, and ultimately, a judge and/or jury.


Electronic media, such as audio and video recordings, are ideal for making a record of the interrogation from beginning to end. If there are any breaks during the interrogation, state the time started and ended, and ask the suspect to do the same. Capture in the electronic recording the date, time, place of interrogation, the name of the interrogator, the name of the person to be interrogated and a verbal acknowledgement, certain advisements and the suspect's responses as to understanding and acknowledging them. Advisements should include making the suspect aware of the matter under investigation and that he/she can terminate the interrogation at any time.


At the beginning, provide your name and the names of other persons present, the time and date, and the purpose of the interrogation. Do not use the word "interrogate" because for some people it conjures up images of intimidation and coercion. Instead, use "interview" or "discussion." The same holds true for the suspect. Don't call him/her a suspect and don't refer to the questioning as interrogating. Call it discussing or talking or sharing ideas.



Polygraph Testing


In general, businesses cannot request, suggest or require a job applicant to take a pre-employment polygraph examination. Secondly, businesses can request a current employee to take a polygraph examination or suggest to such a person that a polygraph examination be taken, only when specific conditions have been satisfied. However, the employer cannot require current employees to take an examination, and if an employee refuses a request or suggestion, the employer cannot discipline or discharge the employee based on the refusal.


Here are the rules governing polygraph testing:

The incident must be an ongoing, specific investigation.
It must be an identifiable economic loss to the employer.
Obtain a copy of the Employer Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA) and follow it.
Provide the employee with a written statement that includes:

Identification of the company and location of employee.
Description of the loss or activity under investigation.
Location of the loss.
Specific amount of the loss.
Type of economic loss.
How the employee had access to the loss (note: access alone is not sufficient grounds for polygraph testing).
Reasonable suspicion the person to be tested is believed to be involved in the loss.

The statement provided to the employee MUST be signed by someone other than the polygraph examiner and who is authorized to legally bind the employee, and MUST be a person retained by the employer for at least 3 years.
Read to the employee the Notice to Examinee form. The notice should be acknowledged by the employee, signed, timed, dated and witnessed.
Provide the employee with 48 hours advanced notice (not counting weekends or holidays) to the date and time of the scheduled polygraph test.
Provide the employee with written notice of the date, time and location of the polygraph test, including written directions if the test is to be conducted at a location other than at the place of employment.
If adverse action is taken following a polygraph test, give to the employee a statement of adverse actions and why10. Conduct an additional interview of the employee prior to any adverse action taken employee following a polygraph test.
Maintain records of ALL of the above for a minimum of 3 year
Employees may not waive their rights.
Police and private investigators are not exempt and must comply if they are conducting an employment-related polygraph test, e.g., when conducting a polygraph test on an internal theft for a missing deposit. Information about a polygraph provided to the employer by a police officer or investigator is prohibited under the Act, since employers are not allowed to use, accept or inquire about the results.
Use company letterhead on all forms provided to the examinee.


There is a $10,000 penalty for each violation of the law. This underscores the need for the operator of a private investigation agency to check out the credentials of the polygraph examiner that used and verify that the examiner meets EPPA requirements. Ask for written proof of licensing, liability insurance, etc.



The Serious Incident


Every once in a while a private investigator will be interviewing a witness concerning a serious incident such as a wrongful death, aggravated assault or rape. The witness says or does something that causes the PI, who is most likely a criminal defense investigator, to believe the witness is not a witness at all, but the guilty party. The PI switches to the interrogation mode, but what is the interrogation mode? Interrogation experts say that an interrogation should consist of three stages: (1) establish rapport, (2) let the suspect tell the story and (3) challenge the story.


In the rapport stage the interrogator engages the suspect in innocent conversation such as asking questions about the suspect’s hobbies, interests and so forth. The objectives are to assess the suspect’s intelligence and attitude; get the suspect use to talking; and establish a relationship in which the interrogator is the dominant person.  


In the second stage the suspect is encouraged to tell the story. Interruptions should be as infrequent as possible and non-threatening such as to say “Go on” or “What happened then?” The interrogator looks for obvious lies, such as comments that contradict what is already known, and other indicators that the suspect is untruthful or omitting facts. The interrogator wants to obtain as much information as possible so that there will be plenty to discuss in the third stage.


In the third stage the interrogator points out the discrepancies and gauges the suspect’s verbal and body language responses. These are called Deception Cues and can be (1) phrases like “Honest to God” and “This is the truth”, (2) avoiding the interrogator’s eyes, (3) twitching, (4) bouncing knees, (5) drumming fingers, (6) licking the lips, (7) arms across the chest; (8) picking imaginary lint from clothing, (9) showing no emotion such as not inquiring about or expressing concern as to the victim’s condition and (10) giving answers that are protective and show self-concern.


Another deception cue is called Cognitive Dissonance. The suspect’s mind is furiously concocting an answer but his mouth can’t keep up. Words are garbled and out of order.


The suspect may offer an explanation before a question is asked. For example, “By the way, that blood spot on the seat of my car was caused by her when she sneezed and had a nosebleed.” The blood spot may not have been detected by the police, a circumstance that would weaken the prosecution’s case and strengthen the defense. Another example is, “The stairs are very steep and that is why she fell down them.” If the private investigator has already been to the scene and taken photographs, they might reveal that the stairs are not steep at all. Showing the photos to the suspect is a way to point out an obvious lie.


If the incident involved physical violence, the interrogator will want to look for cuts, scratches and bruises inflicted by the victim.


When the interrogator reaches a point where further questions will not be helpful he or she moves to a method called Theme Development. In this method the interrogator suggests a scenario in which the suspect had little choice except to commit the offense. The theme is a story that portrays the suspect as a decent person that was confronted with unavoidable circumstance requiring a course of action. The interrogator might suggest that the victim was at fault, that the offense is not all that serious, that the average person would do the same and that people understand and be sympathetic. Theme Development offers the suspect an opportunity to make excuses that are self-exculpatory -- yet incriminating.


Care must be taken not to elicit a false confession through extended interrogation, verbal abuse, inappropriate touching or misuse of the Two-Path technique by describing harsh punishment that is inevitable when the suspect does not confess as opposed to describing positive help and understanding that results from an admission. (Note: Many people believe that false confessions are rare but the advent of DNA testing shows that not to be the case.) Care must be taken to prevent the suspect from later claiming that he or she was denied use of the bathroom, not allowed to rest and not given water or food.


It can be helpful to have another private investigator present to take notes and serve as a witness. A video recording is extremely important because it can be used at a later time to verify and discover new Deception Cues, show that the interrogation was not excessively coercive (an interrogation is coercive to some extent always) and create pictorial evidence for presentation at trial.



Pre-Employment Screening


A pre-employment screen is a search for information about a job applicant; the search does not seek to prove or disprove, only to bring relevant information to the surface so that an objective judgment can be made about the suitability of the applicant to perform the job. The private investigator dredges up the relevant information; the client makes the objective judgment.


Private investigators routinely provide pre-employment screening services to businesses. The PI’s usual point of contact is the owner or operator of the company or the company’s manager of the human resources department. The areas of interest to the client will vary according to the needs of the organization and the preferences of management. For example, a company that operates in a safety-sensitive environment will be interested in a job applicant’s accident history, and a retail sales organization will be interested in a job applicant’s honesty. A company’s chief executive officer (CEO) that by nature is distrustful of people generally may want a job applicant’s credentials checked to the nth degree, while a CEO in the same line of business may believe that no one working for him would ever think of doing anything wrong.


Whatever the dictates, the search for information follows the same course: the requested information is gathered, presented to the client, and the client makes the call. An employer can be in the private or public sector, i.e., operate a business or a government organization. When the employer operates a business, the PI and the employer usually have a direct relationship. When the employer is a government organization, the direct relationship usually is between the PI and a group under contract to the government.


Some employers screen applicants using in-house resources; some do not. In the latter category, the employer engages the services of a third party such as a private investigation agency. The employer’s rationale in going outside of the company is usually two-fold: less cost and better results. Pre-employment screening done in-house usually resides in the human resources department or security department. The screening work requires one or more dedicated employees, work space, equipment, office supplies and so forth. The cost of maintaining an in-house pre-employment screening program can be quite high, yet the effectiveness of the program can be quite low. Human resource representatives are simply not skilled at conducting investigations. Hence, the employer turns to investigation professionals.


In essence, a pre-employment screen is a cost-avoidance measure. Applicants that are felons, violence-prone individuals, drug abusers, and safety risks can be filtered out, thus reducing costs associated with theft, injury, accidents, and medical assistance benefits.


A majority of employers understand the benefits of hiring the best job candidates and providing a safe and secure workplace. To attain these benefits, the employer has to know as much as possible about people before they are put on the payroll. A company with an effective pre-employment screening program is better able to identify applicants that are honest, drug-free, safety conscious and skilled in the work that the job demands.