CR and interrogation

So far I have cited some standard criminal interrogation techniques, as described by Inbaue, Reid & Buckley (IRB), which echo some aspects of psychic cold reading practice. I now want to suggest some other ways - not yet standard - in which cold reading techniques might be applied to criminal interrogation. Specifically, ways in which the interrogator can seem to know more than he really does, which just might help his interrogation. These are hypothetical possibilities only, and some may strike you as far-fetched. I think they are worth exploring nonetheless. I should make it clear that I am not writing from any first-hand experience. Here's our context summary.

Players: Interrogator, Suspect.

Context: An interrogation related to a criminal investigation.

Perception goal: for the interrogator to be perceived by the suspect as knowing more than he really does about the crime and the suspect's role.

It seems to meet that some of the 'character' elements could play a part in this context. To begin with, a well-crafted Rainbow Ruse might possibly undermine a suspect's confidence:

"I think I understand where you're at right now. There are times you feel sure you can sit this out, or talk your way out of it, and it's all going to go away. And there are other times when you're not quite so sure. Times when you can't keep some doubt from creeping in. Maybe someone else will say something to help us. Maybe there's more evidence than you realise. Maybe it's not going to be so easy after all. That's what I think's going on — first you feel sure and then maybe not so sure."

It's just a standard Rainbow Ruse, albeit adapted to suit the context, but like every other Rainbow Ruse it's likely to sound perceptive, insightful and 'close to home'. It could make the suspect feel the interrogator knows him very well, and knows a lot more about the situation than he is letting on. All of which might make him more receptive to the usual invitations to 'clear this thing up'.

What I have called Sugar Lumps could also play a part:

"Let me tell you something. I've seen a lot of guys in this room, and I'll be the first to give you credit. You're good. You're very good. Very cool. If I were in your position, I honestly don't think I'd manage to keep so cool about it, and I doubt many other people would either. You're very focused, and I respect you for that. And that's why I want you to do yourself the best favour you can, and help us straighten this thing out."

A Greener Grass statement could also give the suspect the uncomfortable feeling that the interrogator can 'read him like a book':

"You know what? I'll bet you sometimes think what it would be like to make all this go away. I mean all this running around, trying to keep one step ahead. It's not much of a life, is it? You know, there are plenty of guys your age, with your background, they're never in here, never in this situation. They do a day's work, they get a day's pay, they have their ups and downs like everyone else. But they're never down here. We don't take up their time because they don't take up ours. I'm pretty sure you've thought about this. Now, we can sort this whole thing out, and you can tell us what really happened, and maybe you can think about being one of those guys who never have to come in here."

In similar vein, the interrogator might use a Jacques Statement to apparently describe the suspect's life story:

"Look, I can understand how someone like you — basically a decent, regular guy - can get into these situations. It happens all the time. At first it's just a few short-cuts here and there, a few ways to make a buck. So you bend a few rules now and again, so what? Everyone does it, right? Then you get a bit more ambitious. You get in deeper. You know you're good at not getting caught, but it's funny how one thing leads to another. Things get out of hand. There are some near-misses. It gets harder to keep one step ahead. You're a player, sure, but the game gets tougher every time. And now you're here.

You're basically a decent guy who just wasn't getting the breaks. You start small, but it all spirals out of control. And now you've got a choice. You can carry on, running and hiding and watching your back, worrying in case you make one small slip. Or, you can sort this thing out now, draw a line and put it behind you."

Some cold reading techniques might help the interrogator imply he knows more about the crime than he really does. Consider the Fuzzy Fact, for example, in relation to a burglary:

"We're piecing things together, and I really think you should help us sort this out. We've heard about the problems with the money, and we know you were given some information that turned out... well, lets just say it wasn't quite as accurate as you would have liked."

Or how about a Good Chance Guess:

"We don't yet have all the details. That's why we'd like your help to sort this thing out. For example, we have some information about the arrangements you made to handle all the money afterwards, and we know that you ran into some, well... lets just call them complications. Its tough when people sometimes let you down and don't keep their end of the deal. Can we at least get that part of it straight?"

These are just hypothetical examples, and I'm sure someone with first-hand experience of interrogation could word them better.

Nonetheless, I hope these few examples suggest that an interrogator could, at the very least, throw a suspect off balance, plant some seeds of doubt, and convey the distinct impression of knowing more than he really does.

In the psychic context, I listed several techniques used for 'Extracting information. The psychic uses these techniques to sound like she is giving information when in fact she is doing her best to extract it. As I have already noted, the interrogator doesn't need to disguise his tactics to this extent, since the suspect knows he is trying to obtain information. Nonetheless, he may often want

- to imply that he knows more than he really does

- to disguise the true focus of his questions, or

- to make his questions less confrontational and hence easier to answer

Some of the 'Extracting information' techniques may assist these aims. For a first example, consider the Incidental Question. Suppose the point at issue is whether or not a given suspect was ever present at the crime scene. The Incidental Question would go something like this:

"Now, whether or not you had anything to do with the break-in, we know you have a good knowledge of that neighbourhood, and people say you had been to the house a few times. I think you can understand why they'd say that, yes?"

It sounds like a statement, but in fact it's just another way of asking a question. Here's another example. Suppose a knife was used in a crime, and the interrogator thinks the suspect owns or owned the knife in question.

"Okay, maybe you were involved, maybe not, but let's just leave that to one side. For now, I just want to clarify this business with the knife. We know from talking to people that you used to own one just like it. That much makes sense to you, doesn't it?"

The Russian Doll, you will recall, is a question with several shells of possibility. The interrogator might make use if it like this:

"I'd like to at least clear up one detail. It's about the knife. Now, at some point you owned it, or at least you had it even if it wasn't actually yours. Or you had one just like it, or one that was so similar that the people we've spoken to are getting a bit confused. So, which is it?"

Yet another possibility is the Veiled Question. Here's an example where the point at issue is whether or not the suspect knows the area where the crime was committed.

"Now, we've had our people knocking on doors and checking this out, and we've established that you know the neighbourhood, or at least you've been there a few times to see some people you know, or some guys you deal with. Which is it? Do you know the place, or just go there a few times for some reason?"

The interrogator can also use the Vanishing Negative to seem like he is in possession of more facts than he really is, like this:

"We know the knife belonged to John. You didn't used to hang out with John, did you?"

Whether the suspect says yes or no, the interrogator can make it seem like he knew as much, or assumed it. In fact, he's asking questions and obtaining feedback without seeming to.

Legality

You may be interested, as I was, in the legality of using such deceptive techniques in the course of a criminal interrogation. IRB deal with this point in admirable detail. Obviously I cannot reproduce all of the relevant legal arguments here. In essence, it seems that interrogators can legally employ deceptive ruses within certain limits. As the authors explain:

"The Supreme Court of the United States in 'Frazier .v. Cupp' recognised the essentiality of interrogation practices involving trickery or deceit, and approved of them" / 'the deceit must not be of such a nature as to 'shock the conscience' of the court or the community, nor can it be one that is apt to induce a false confession".

I have not found out if there is any more recent ruling which overrides this one.

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