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Investigative Interviewing: Strategies and Techniques
Christopher D. Hoffman, CPO (Cand.)
August 2005

Investigative Interviewing: Strategies and Techniques

Page 1

The Interview: Getting Started Interviews versus Interrogations Investigative interviewing is an essential aspect of the investigative process for patrol officers, loss prevention agents detectives or other investigators. Asmost information comes from people; it is necessary to have knowledge and proficiency in interviewing. An interview is a conversation intended to elicit information. Interviews are generally non-accusatory. During the course of an investigation the investigator will conduct interviews with all available witnesses and potential suspects. The investigator should ask open-ended questions in anattempt to elicit as much information as possible. The interview subject should do most (75%) of the talking during the conversation (Reid & Associates, 2001). If, during the interview it is found that the subject has lied, the investigator should generally not confront the subject. In most cases it is best to challenge a lie during a follow-up interview or once the interviewer has transitioned into aninterrogation. An interrogation is the process by which suspects are questioned in regards to their involvement in the activity that gave rise to the investigation. The interrogation will involve the interviewer accusing the suspect. Interrogations may be scheduled at the conclusion of the investigation, after all of the evidence has been considered. There are also times when, depending on thesuspect’s behavior, an interview will change into an interrogation. This step should not be taken lightly. Once the tone of the conversation has moved to accusatory it is virtually impossible to stop and go back to interviewing. In the interrogation the investigator will do most of the talking. The questions asked of the suspect will be more direct and less open ended. Often, particularly in theprivate sector, the words interview and interrogation are used incorrectly. Perhaps worse is a tendency to drop the word interrogation altogether from the vocabulary in an attempt make the practice less threatening to the public, union representatives, human resource administrators, attorneys or corporate executives. There is little doubt that the word interrogation carries a negative connotation.That, however, does not change the fact that it is the proper term for an important step in the investigative process. It is therefore important that the investigator has a clear goal in mind when having a conversation. If that conversation is intended as an interrogation (regardless of what it is called) the interviewer should keep that fact in mind and not allow the use of euphemisms to alter hisor her approach. Legal Considerations It is required that members of law enforcement agencies relay certain warnings (established by the Miranda Rule) prior to any custodial interrogation. These warnings include the suspect’s privilege against self-incrimination and his or her right to the presence and advice of an attorney. An interrogation is considered custodial when the suspect has been takeninto custody or one has been deprived of their freedom to leave in any way (Barron’s, 1991). It is rare, but not unheard of, that private-sector investigators will be required to make suspects aware of their Miranda rights. When a security officer or private-sector investigator detains and questions a suspect at the direction of a law enforcement officer one is considered to be acting Investigative Interviewing: Strategies and Techniques

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under color of law and must advise the suspect of one’s rights. This occurs most often when 1) security and law enforcement agencies partner in an investigation and 2) the conditions (generally the timing) dictate that an interrogation must be done by the security officer. In situations that require a subject be notified of his or her...
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