by Peter Hyatt
It may not be as obvious as one might think. What makes a good investigator sets the stage for a great one, but there is a difference.
A great investigator is one which possesses a most useful skill. The skill is useful for:
mothers of teenagers...
in short, anyone who needs to gather information benefits from training. Statement Analysis and the subsequent Analytical Interviewing takes training and lots of practice, particularly guided practice (which is ongoing training) and casual practice.
For the sake of clarity, I will use "he" regarding male and female investigators, unless a specific is necessary.
Male and Female both make good investigators, yet often possessive different skills and elements of the skill. Remember, principle is not built on exception and exceptions always exist, with many shades of grey in-between. Generalities are built on statistics and to simply find an exception to disagree with a principle, is more suited for contrarianism.
With a mind for detail, for example, thinking in smaller steps, females can excel in investigations, whereas many men report the need to actually put in more effort to concentrate on smaller details. That men and women are different means that the skill sets may be different. When an allegation of sexual harassment or even sexual assault arises, a female victim may feel more comfortable with a female Interviewer. It is life. Whether someone has "coal in the mouth" over such statements matters not to the victim.
In group analysis, having a mix gender is essential.
Training, training and then more training. This is guided practice and can make careers soar with success.
Eventually, the "dulled listening" that all fall into is reversed and the serious student will be able to exercise "Discourse Analysis", or, Statement Analysis on the fly.
He gets to not only discern truth from deception, but then moves into the most productive aspect of analysis: content. This is where analysis reveals not only a profile of the subject, but often specific information not previously known.
What makes someone good at gathering information? The most obvious need is in law enforcement but more and more companies are recognizing the value in not only day to day business operations, but in the hiring process. By eliminating deceptive people, that is, those who practice as their 'normal walk' in life, the deception of others for their own benefit, they increase productivity, slow down shrinkage, loss, protect morale, and reduce likelihood of false claims, sexual harassment, inappropriate unemployment and so on.
In short, there is nothing more troubling than one who's basic instinct, as seen in the rapidity of language choice, is to put himself before all others.
In law enforcement, not only getting to the truth, and revelatory content, but in the written report given to the DA who must be influenced to affect arrest and prosecution.
It is "win-win-win" situation.
In law enforcement we are in a current politically driven climate of mistrust and mis-representation. Unlike all other areas of investigation, law "enforcement" has the use of deadly force. For this reason, I will add in an additional element that agencies should not overlook, nor minimize. This is also something that employers who care for people at risk; clients that may be vulnerable, should carefully consider. More than ever before, they need to hire those who use their brain to outsmart, to de-escalate, to assess, to quantify and to conclude on a day to day basis, is before us.
Whether it is Rubic's cube, chess, or the boy or girl who grew up reading "The Hardy Boys" and "Nancy Drew Mysteries", most people point to those who love to "solve" or find answers as those who make for good investigators.
This is true.
The Harvard trained therapist to millionaires gets referrals for a lot more money per hour than many top attorneys for good reason. They "investigate" a living biography. They are naturally inquisitive and possess the other characteristics listed here, just as a company human resources professional, and a law enforcement official may.
An inquisitive mind helps make a good investigator.
It is also a "given", or one "of course", that is, accepted without question.
As to the major point of this article, I will leave 'the best for last' in my order.
A. The Inquisitive Mind.
This is our "Nancy Drew" given. A natural inquisitiveness is a necessity. One that enjoys learning what is not yet learned. This presupposes humility, which will be given its own category. The inquisitive mind is an interested mind and is able to see that the subject has information that he does not. Therefore, he must not be given to
B. Humility and Honesty
The pedantic likes to lecture. He is often unaware of just how he is perceived by others, or how he actually turns off the flow of information due to his own countenance. He may think he is being informative, and even his 'questions' feel wrapped in lectures. This is where "emotional intelligence" comes in. One that has a good self awareness of his strengths and weaknesses and how he is perceived by others.
Emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for Statement Analysis in the "expected" stage; that is, where one must list mentally or in writing, what the subject is "expected" to say in the context of the situation.
Where one is accused of filing a false claim against a company, there will be certain words or phrases expected.
Where another is accused of stealing from his company, certain communication is expected. "I didn't do it" chief among the expectation. Without humility, there is no ability to learn. When one thinks more of himself than his skill set call for, there is an inability to learn. Narcissists sometimes appear to be "humble" but if you do not interpret their words, and simply listen, you will often find them praising and elevating their own selves, even while masquerading in the praise of others. Brian Williams recently evidenced this very thing. His lack of humility betrayed him. It always does.
It is the pride of liars, after decades of success, that good investigators exploit. It is the number one reason why the guilty submit to the polygraph. The arrogant often find themselves in a "me versus everyone else" hero mentality (or martyr status) and do not listen to counsel. Where there is "safety in a multitude of counselors", the arrogant will sometimes show an enjoyment of being David, while others, including wise counselors, are the "Goliath" of their own personal battle.
This type should be found out in the pre-interview process if the company or department has used a proper writing sample, but if this person reaches the interview process, a solid interview should suffice in uncovering the arrogant.
In group analysis, it is critical to be able to be "wrong" in order to be right. It is critical to have, whenever possible, male and female, youth and maturity. A varied input is best. However, if someone bristles over being wrong, you are all but promised trouble because in group analysis, especially if the statement is anonymous, the only constant is inconsistency. One needs to be able to say "this is male" in line one, but contradict himself on line two and say "female!" and on line three, "uneducated" while on line four, "above average intelligence and advanced education..." and be able to shift easily.
When one is arrogant, he will be naturally uncomfortable being wrong, and will likely trouble the group, as he has a need to take prominence among analysts. His opinion is more important than the truth.
A company or an entire police department can gain a reputation for arrogance. The price causes them to eventually fail. Yet even in failure, unless there is a willingness to change, improvement will not be seen.
A company that made wool socks experienced a lot of success. Their product was well made and the profit deserved. They then moved operations to China.
In China, factory managers have fierce competition for money. If manager A can find a way to save 3 or 4% over manager B, manager A is getting the job. LL Bean even acknowledged publicly how hard it is to oversee quality assurance. Sears found out that some of their "down parkas" contained dog hair, chicken feathers, and in one case, newspaper clippings, combined with down.
The sock company found a 75 or 80% savings in labor, but eventually, sales went down as customer complaints went up.
They learned from their mistake and moved operations (at least in part) back to North America.
There are some departments who have, year after year, very poor solve rates, yet hiring does not change, and the reputation continues. They are blind and proud of it. They do not learn from their mistakes and they do not receive criticism. They are encapsulated by their own failures and protected by their own club mentality.
I met one interviewer who was "too busy for that analysis stuff" and in joint interviews, he shouted down subjects, and stormed of saying, "liar. I got what I need" and was satisfied with it. He had done it this way for 20 years and others looked up to him. There is little chance this will change anytime soon. He piled failure upon failure with an arrogant smirk while boasting on the few successes that fell into his lap.
Dishonest people will always have a misapplication of the expected, just as those with unresolved mental health issues do. The dishonest should be weeded out. They believe everyone else is dishonest and will score poorly on detecting deception tests just as the suspicious do. They will cause a host of issues to your company or department.
C. The Trusting, instead of the Suspicious
The suspicious, as seen in testing, often do poorly in discerning deception. They think everyone is lying.
I once held a seminar in which I pointed to a sentence and called out, "Truth or Deception" based only on the sentence structure.
Most were silent.
Some called out "truth" but one investigator repeatedly, in sentence after sentence, boldly said, "Deceptive!" with emphasis. The class even chuckled but she would not back down. She was repeatedly wrong yet felt that she wanted to argue why the sentences were deceptive, but had nothing from which she could base her conclusion on. The two day seminar showed what I saw early on day one: she posed a threat to her company's employees as the chief HR investigator. She likely had been terribly hurt by deception early in life, and sees nothing but deception everywhere. I recommended to the company that they use her talents elsewhere in anything but internal investigations.
The suspicious do not do well in analysis. Like those "unfamiliar with the language of humility" (what a polite way of putting it! I read this from a sports writer who had a friendship with Willie Mays and this was the line he used to describe Mays), the suspicious often tangle themselves up in the "expected" area, as it is off target. This is similar to those who bring agenda into analysis. They seek to conform their analysis to their personal agenda. It does not work.
The suspicious are difficult to teach.
The one who is gullible and easy to deceive is often the easiest to teach. He does best in the "expected" part of analysis and is often "confronted"by that which makes him feel 'uncomfortable.'
In fact, the "gullible" often prosper in Statement Analysis and Analytical Interviewing. They are the easiest to teach.
D. The Listener
Or, perhaps, in the negative, not a talker.
An incessant talker fits in the category of humility, that is, the lack of humility. This person talks all the time and does not seem to understand:
the subject has the information. You cannot get it by talking. Only by the subject's words can the information be gleaned and while the Interviewer is talking, the subject is not.
Yakkers do not do well in this field. Their talents are better off used elsewhere. This may appear overly simplistic but the incessant talker:
1. Does not get information
2. Taints the interview
3. Can give false results in polygraphs (for a separate article)
I once drove with an incessant talker and had a strong message of caution for him regarding the task he was about to face. I needed two to four minutes to explain the warnings to him.
The car ride was ten minutes.
Each time I brought up one of the concerns, he interrupted me and said, "I already know that..." and went on to 'lecture' me (see "pedantic") about the very topic I had hoped to warn him on.
Two hours later, I got the "emergency call.
The incessant talker should not be in human resources, nor in fields where information gathering is necessary. Their talents are better off in other areas where the upholding of constant dialog is needed.
A good example of this is analysis done by Kaaryn Gough regarding the parents of 7 year old "missing" Isabel Celis, who were appearing on national television. Kaaryn possesses a marvelous imagination and can "picture herself" present "in a statement." This is far more than just "entering into the language", she seems to enter into the person's professed reality!
It may be that those with artistic or even marketing backgrounds do well in analysis and investigations. They seem to have an ability to "put themselves into the shoes of another", making the language flow logically, even when emotion is strongly in play.
Use the search feature here and go through her analysis work, particularly on Celis. She "imagined" herself as one appearing on national television to plead for her kidnapped daughter. She knew all the words she would have used:
and so on.
She then showed us how none of these words were found within the language of either Mr. or Mrs. Celis.
Please note that both parents of Isabel were indicated for deception. Sergio Celis is the one who literally chuckled on his 911 call. (see analysis).
F. The Secure and Empathetic
This is critical for law enforcement since laws are "enforced" not so much by legal consequence, but by one who carries a lethal weapon in his hand.
This is "an opinion with a gun" to enforce it. Arguing with law enforcement is not a sign of higher intelligence. Tragedies follow resisting arrest.
Law Enforcement must do a better job yielding out those who possess a strong need to be respected.
We saw this recently in the racist cop in Portland who said an elderly male was "threatening" her with his golf club that he was using as a walker. This aged vet, with no criminal record, was not only put in handcuffs (increasing his vulnerability) but actually held over night.
Her own dash cam showed that he was peaceful and was targeted without justification. Her own language revealed the reason, however, and it was the color of his skin. She is not one to be trusted with a weapon.
Hiring intelligent officers via testing and the interview process is something that politicians should have never touched. Whether a department is under mandate that is written, or unwritten, hiring anyone other than the best and brightest, for whatever cause, has negative consequences.
In the interview process, I sometimes "push buttons" that is, see how one reacts to a slight in the conversation. Does the interviewee become indignant?
Law enforcement must weed out those who need to be respected, and those who lack empathy for others. A good officer knows that he is in a position of authority and has a distinct advantage in public: he is armed, speaking to one who is unarmed.
This is where we learn whether the officer hired was appropriate or not for the job.
We want intelligent, skillful interviewers who know how to de escalate and put others at ease. At times, this is grotesque, including careful listening to a child abuser, without judgement evidenced, even by face expression. The Interviewer must remain neutral.
Did you ever consider that the moral repugnance upon the face of the interviewer might just cause the pedophile to take out his rage upon a child?
I keep my moral repugnance to myself, or at least, until the subject is gone.
Engaging in conversation, generally after the interview, is a wise practice. For us, the information gatherers, the interview begins when the subject enters the room and leaves when he is no longer in our sight.
When a concern about aggression is in the mind, I recommend the following:
Engage the subject in discussion about crime, or sports.
Bring up the fact that a video exists in which a "deserving suspect" gets a beat down.
See if he agrees.
Or, bring up a sport (especially with male applicants) and find out what team he hates. Then ask if he would like to see a video clip of "that guy" (pick someone he hates) getting "injured" or something that should turn the stomach.
See if he delights in it.
You must learn if the officer, male or female, enjoys the pain of others. You must learn if the prospective officer has a need to be respected, or, the opposite: he doesn't take himself too seriously. Self-effacing humor keeps everyone "down to earth" and a fairly level playing field in a world of equalities. (There is no true equality as we all have gifts, talents and challenges. We need to find those who do not use superiority to bring harm or insult to others).
One who enjoys the suffering of others, whether he feels a group "deserves" "what they get", or even if he enjoys seeing pain inflicted upon others in sports, is not someone to be trusted with lethal force. I implore social service agencies who have clients at risk, to carefully screen out the violent, including looking at those who use linguistic indicators of violence (see Mark Redwine's language) in order to keep children, or adults with disabilities, safe.
A good investigator is secure within himself. He does not possess a need for recognition or respect; it comes from within. He is humble, apt to learn, caring little about being wrong, while caring a lot about getting it right. He listens rather than lectures, possesses a good imagination, and believes what people tell him.
He does not wish harm on anyone, and does not use his weapon to intimidate. He knows that traffic stops are scary for him and for the driver. He does not "need" over-done respect, just common decency.
Last word on this:
When I meet an officer and speak with him or her, I ask myself how I would feel if my son or daughter were to be pulled over by this officer.
Assuming that my son or daughter may have driven too fast, or text'd, or failed to signal, would the thought of this person pulling them over, knowing my kids are respectful to all, cause me undo anxiety?
Officers can do this mental exercise about each other.
"Would I be okay with this officer pulling over my daughter? my son?"
I respect those who can be insulted in public, and smile. They disarm a growing suspicious public and do, in fact, "protect and serve." I think of the officer on trial for rape this week as I consider some of both, the fine professionals I have worked with, and the minority of ignorant bullies who have an acute need to dominate others. In business, a bully can do a variety of damage, but in law enforcement, he also carries a lethal weapon. Neither is good for business, departments, nor society at large. It only takes one bully to destroy a life, and ruin an entire department's or business' reputation.
A good self awareness goes a long way in investigations, departments, and companies. The one that feels for others' disadvantages in life and can hurt over the plight of others, can make a good, solid investigator. He has empathy for the fox, whom he chases, just as he feels for the hound, who's job it is to catch the fox.
The non-empathetic only see the point of view of the hound. They love the "us against the world" mentality and are often bully cops, threatening, intimidating and so on. Some will even attempt to use their appearance to frighten others. This has never been good, and is especially bad news in today's climate where the men and women of law enforcement are being painted with a broad brush, unjustly, by our President as well as other political leaders, from state to state. The rotten apple, with his foolish "selfies" and his attempts to intimidate the public he is supposed to be "serving", often ruin the reputation of others.
There is one more important characteristic in what is actually a much longer list, but for the sake of time, I will get to it.
I have saved the best for last:
In ongoing research, here and abroad, of what makes a good investigator, the above traits of inquisitiveness, humility, apt to learn, a good listener, and so on, all matter, yet there is something that psychologists have found that is even more important and it relates to the emotional. It is:
The ability to accept an incomplete puzzle makes for a great investigator.
This is far more difficult than what most realize.
The "puzzle solver" is a good investigator, along with the other traits mentioned, but here we have the difference between "good" and "great"; that is, the best of the best.
It is those men and women who, in whatever field they may be in, can bear off, patiently, the incomplete portrait. They have the ability to pause and not put that last piece of the puzzle in, which is something that, even among children, is an exercise in impulsiveness.
We all reach for that last piece of the puzzle. There is a feeling of satisfaction and completion in it.
Recall the Nazi "booby-trapping" where a portrait on the wall is deliberately left crooked, knowing that an officer, in particular, is likely to reach up and straighten it out, detonating the bomb?
Those with good, strong intellects, a sound moral compass, humility, listening skills, and so on, like order. They like to work. They like the feeling of completion and accomplishment. They are not intellectually lazy, and not physically lazy.
They tie their children's shoes.
They believe the laws are for the public, and for the public servants and obey them, themselves.
They feel 'safe' and comfortable dotting the i's, and crossing the t's.
The great investigator has the emotional self control to wait and not jump and rush to the conclusion.
The great analyst can see the signal of deception and follow it but knows that he must step back and re-do the analysis, with the appropriate emotional and intellectual disconnection, in order to complete the analysis and know he has been fair minded and accurate. This is not easy especially when moral outrage exists. He has caught the "bad guy" and has pinned down the liar. Yet, he knows that there is more information so he waits...
He allows for the case to continue.
He allows for the statement to guide him.
He is always willing to change his mind, should the language lead him elsewhere.
This is he who, once he has made up his mind, has a quiet confidence knowing that he has done "due diligence" in a statement, or an investigation, and the answer is now "known."
In short, he "knows."
During the journey, he felt all along that he "knew" the answer, but he held back his own mind and emotions, and did not let his emotions rule him. He let the evidence guide him. He let his own prejudices and biases be known. He let his shortcomings and emotional reactions be known.
He was a slave to none of them, however, as he subordinated even his own opinion to the truth. He may have even rooted for it to turn to the left or to the right, but recognized even that, and let the truth speak for itself.
When an investigation or a statement is 75% done, this analyst has the ability to keep himself from assuming the last quarter's results and forces himself to stay open minded to the possibility that the subject "didn't do it" or that more information is forthcoming.
It is a struggle and rarely does it come naturally, but it is something that can be practiced, repeatedly, as one reminds one's own self not to rush to judgement but to bear up under the incomplete puzzle and hold off on placing that one last piece in, until it has been thoroughly examined.
What makes a good analyst makes a good investigator.
Smart, yet humble.
Economy of words, a good listener, but still able to formulate good solid questions.
Trusting, seeing the good in others, while remaining a realist.
Aware of his own shortcomings, limitations and prejudices.
Emotionally secure, able to empathize with both the fox and with the hound, while seeking the truth.
Eager to push ahead, but willing to stop and accept the unknown.