Contextual parallels

Many practices which IRB say are standard, or ought to be, parallel those of the professional psychic. Some may seem a little obvious, others less so.

For example, there is a section in the book entitled 'Suggestions for setting up the interrogation room'. Most of these could apply equally well to setting up a room for psychic readings or sales meetings. Among other points, the authors suggest that the room should establish a sense of privacy, be devoid of distractions, have appropriate lighting (neither excessive nor glaring), minimise noise from outside and be arranged so there is no table or furniture between interrogator and suspect.

Interestingly, IRB suggest that someone other than the interrogator should escort the suspect into the interrogation room, and announce that Mr. X [name of the interrogator] will be along soon. They recommend this purely as a way to raise the perceived status of the interrogator. This echoes the points made concerning 'Establishing psychic credentials', 'Establishing the belief system' and otherwise raising the psychic's perceived status.

In another section, IRB describe the 'Attitude and General Conduct of the Interrogator'. They mention points such as keeping the mood calm but focused, minimising distractions, avoiding any actions or gestures which could seem hostile or confrontational, and avoiding behaviour which could either convey anxiety or promote it (e.g. the interrogator should avoid pacing round the room). The authors also say the interrogator should use language that conforms to that used and understood by the suspect. There are many parallels here with The Set Up and Presentational Points (e.g. 'Setting the client at ease', 'Keeping it clear' and 'Keeping it folksy').

Earlier in this book I touched on the subject of 'body language'. Chapter 5 of 'Criminal Interrogation' contains extensive sections on 'The value of direct observation and evaluation of behaviour symptoms' and 'Evaluation of verbal and non-verbal responses'. These sections cover body language and several other forms of non-verbal communication. The authors go into considerable detail, although they are solely concerned with non-verbal cues which might help to sort truth from lies. They are careful to emphasise that body language and non-verbal cues are far from perfect indicators:

"Although behaviour symptoms are very helpful in differentiating truth from deception, they are not to be considered determinative of the issue. This is also true with respect to any diagnostic effort respecting human behaviour. Moreover, even when behaviour symptoms seem to the interrogator to be absolute in their indications, they should be evaluated only as tentative indicators of truth or deception."

[pg. 54, emphasis in the original]. The authors even include a lengthy section specifically devoted to 'Factors that may lead to misinterpretation of behaviour symptoms'.

The book contains a fascinating reference to so-called 'baiting questions'. In its simplest form, a baiting question lures the suspect into confirming a key fact by shifting the focus on to a separate issue. For example, if the interrogator says:

"Your car was seen in front of the house"

the suspect may challenge the interrogator to back up this direct accusation, and the interrogator may have no way of doing so. Or the suspect may simply deny it, which can only promote confrontation. A baiting question would go like this:

"Can you think of any reason why Mary's neighbour would say she saw your car in front of her apartment?"

[Examples paraphrased from the original] As the authors explain, this is much safer and less confrontational, since the interrogator is not making any direct accusation. Moreover, the suspect - while offering some response about what the neighbour said - may inadvertently give some clue as to whether his car was, or was not, actually there. Thus the baiting question is effectively a way of asking a question ("Was your car present at the house?") without seeming to do so. Psychics, of course, do this all the time, using such techniques as 'The Incidental Question' and 'The Veiled Question'. There are limits to this comparison. In the psychic context, the psychic is obliged to seem as if she is giving information because that's what the client is paying for. The police interrogator is under no such obligation, and his usual stance is that of someone simply trying to get at the facts to sort things out. As such, he is perfectly entitled to ask direct questions. Nonetheless, the interrogator can sometimes find it useful to disguise the fact that he is hunting for information (or, more precisely, to disguise which facts he's actually interested in).

IRB discuss a second form of baiting question. This is intended to strongly imply that a given fact is already known or established. Hence, instead of asking the suspect:

"Do you own a diary" the interrogator will ask:

"Where is your diary now?"

[Examples paraphrased from the original]. This version implies that the police already know the suspect has a diary, so there is no point in denying it. Or at least, admission / denial ceases to be the issue.

The authors mention other ways in which the interrogator can appear to know more than he does. For example, they suggest that the interrogator should prepare an evidence case folder, or at least a simulation of one, which he can look through at judicious moments during the interview as if it contains detailed and incriminating material - even if it actually contains very little.

In one section of the book there is a truly delightful example of a deceptive technique used to imply that the interrogator has already obtained a confession from the suspect's accomplice. I will paraphrase from the original.

The interrogator is fairly sure two suspects, A and B, committed a burglary but neither will confess. He leaves both in a waiting room where a secretary is busy typing. The interrogator takes A into the interview room, and gets nowhere (as expected). He returns A to the waiting room, and takes B into the interview room. After a suitable interval, the interrogator asks the secretary to come to the interview room. The secretary is in on the deception, and knows what to do. While A looks on, she sharpens a pencil or two, flips open a clean page on her shorthand pad, and goes into the interview room. After another plausible interval, she returns to the waiting room and starts apparently typing up her notes (she is in fact typing anything at all or complete nonsense). Occasionally she asks a nearby officer such details as how A spells his surname. Having apparently typed, proofed and corrected her notes, the secretary takes a printed version back to the interview room and then resumes her normal duties back in the waiting room. A has had a full view of the whole charade! After 15-20 minutes, B is taken from the interview room to some other part of the station. The interrogator returns to the waiting room, escorts A to the interview room, and says, "So, what do you have to say for yourself?". A, under the impression that B has confessed, also confesses!

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