Friday, May 15, 2015
Law Enforcement Investigator: The Pivotal Case
Officers with good ambition are of great value.
For the officer who begins in Statement Analysis, he or she finds insight into human nature and begins to enjoy small areas of success. They quickly learn why so few are proficient in analytical work, due to the nature of commitment, time and hard work.
They also begin to understand that this is a marathon of learning, and not a sprint, as it takes much time to reverse the 'dulled listening' we all do.
I regularly converse with officers with years experience yet still are always learning, always analyzing and always seeing new insights to statements.
What is so very much needed is the one "Pivotal Case" which is the next major change they often experience after embracing and becoming addicted to analysis.
They heard about it, or got some training in it, but it was 'just another training', or, perhaps, the trainer was not skillful in gaining attention, or was not a gifted instructor, even though he may have been a gifted analysis. Maybe the training got lost in the shear volume of training they've had, or, the training was good, but there was no time to implement the learning, and the principles went by the way side. This sometimes is the complaint of officers assigned to traffic duty.
No one grows up thinking, "When I am grown, I am going to hide behind a bush and catch drivers going 11 mph over the limit!"
For most, it is just part of the duty, and it is not particularly enjoyable. For some, it is what all new officers have to do, and for small departments, it is duty that is done by all.
Few find any satisfaction from it.
Stats tell us that it is actually a very dangerous activity due to traffic accidents, and as two officers sadly exampled last week in Mississippi, it can be deadly.
Those pulled over are sometimes hostile, and the officer generally doesn't have emotional satisfaction over a job well done unless the speed was dangerous.
Yet, if you use the search feature, you will see that traffic stops are a marvelous opportunity to "interview" and practice statement analysis on the fly, focusing in upon the most common deceptive phrases. In fact, you might consider making lemonade from this assignment full of lemons: each stop, just like each report taken, is a short interview, which is an opportunity for learning.
It is, however, the one Pivotal Case that can help the officer's career the most.
This is what a "Pivotal Case" looks like:
A crime is alleged and a detective or an officer who would like to be promoted to detective, who has been studying Statement Analysis is assigned. He wants to know the truth. We will call him or her, "the investigator" for the purpose of the article.
He first hopes that the respondent officer was sharp enough to say little and just take the information for the assigned case.
The first thing he wants to do is get a written statement.
I. The Written Statement
This is critical.
Let us begin with a sexual assault case, one that is commonly assigned today.
The investigator must get written statements particularly from the victim and the accused.
He must, therefore, make contact with them.
1. The victim
This often begins with a phone call to get the victim to come into the office to make the complaint. It can be at a hospital, if she has been injured, or it may be at her home.
Wherever it is, it is vital that the investigator control the environment. In Analytical Interviewing, the victim, herself, will control the interview. She will do 80% or more of the speaking, and we do the listening. But first, we must get there.
A. If this is set up via phone call, it is best to have a secretary or someone else, make the call. This works well if the secretary knows nothing about the case. You do not want anything being said.
Any form of interviewing can contaminate the statement.
If a well meaning secretary says too much because she has seen the file, she will contaminate the statement.
"I'm so sorry he..." will now put her focus on a particular detail of the report.
This must be avoided. The only communication should be the time and address and nothing else, no matter where it is conducted.
BEST PRACTICE: Schedule the victim to come in to write a statement rather than be interviewed whenever possible.
B. Sexual Assault Victims Like to have someone with them in the interview.
This is understandable. This is how it should be handled:
I prefer to discourage it, if possible, by making the victim comfortable and reminding her that I am going to need to know everything I can about what happened but it can only come from her, and that some of the questions might be sensitive or embarrassing. I have found some look at me and trust me, while still others just so in need of support that I do not protest.
I allow the interview to proceed with the loved one present but speak very firmly to the support person, reminding them that they could be subpoenaed to court, that they must not answer any questions for the loved one, and they are to not communicate in any way.
Next, I set up the chairs where the loved one is not making eye contact with the interviewee. In a child interview, I have the support person's chair away from the child, often behind the child, so that no looks of approval, or disapproval can be communicated. A single look can influence the interview.
If the support person interrupts, I give one warning. I am polite, but very firm; firmer than average. I will even remind the support person that they could hinder justice and could even give a defense attorney ammunition to use against their loved one and that their loved one needs justice.
Only in one case (assault, non sexual) did I protest by walking out.
I had been instructed to do a joint interview and the other interviewer would not stop finishing the subject's sentences for him. I warned twice. The third time I ended the interview and said I could not continue unless the other was removed. The interviewer finished the subject's sentence in a critical area, which taught him to lie. I later learned that there was a connection between them.
Most support people are well intentioned and once they understand that interruptions could hurt their loved one's case, they remain silent.
I make sure that there is no possible non-verbal communication. Even hand holding can lead to squeezing "approval" at some points, which later, if video taped or even testified to, can hurt the case.
A. Have a secretary make the appointment and have the secretary say nothing.
B. If a 3rd party is in the room, make sure they understand "the rules."
C. The statement
The victim may be anxious to "get going" and will likely speak.
SAY AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.
It is here that I say, "Your case is very important to me. I must learn what happened to you. Here is a pen and paper.
I want you to write out everything that happened. Every word you say is important. If you make a mistake, simply draw a line through the word and continue.
I make sure that I have two pens, and several pages to write on, which encourages a lengthy statement.
If she says, "Where do I begin?" I always say "Start at the beginning" and I write down her question.
If she says, "Where, where do you mean?" I then say, "You can start from when you woke up" but still, I say as little as possible to get a pure version in the written statement.
I offer water, and bathroom breaks, but I say little and I say nothing about the case.
If the support person is in the room, I get her coffee and get her to walk with me to the coffee maker or cafeteria. If she insists on staying in the room (many do), I ask them again to get coffee or water first and while walking, I tell them how even a single word spoken can harm the case.
Most always this well meaning person will remain silent.
Writing out the statement may take 20 minutes or a half hour. The more she writes, the more I learn.
When she is done, and she wants to be interviewed now, and not the next day, so be it. You will work fast. Best practice is to schedule the appointment for her "Statement" and not the interview.
Best practice is not always possible depending upon the crime, the circumstances, how busy you are, and so on.
Let's assume worst case scenario: you MUST interview her now.
I get the victim coffee or soda now (rather than just water earlier) and I tell them that I need "a few minutes" to review the statement. I ask them not to discuss the case, excuse myself and have the most frenzied 15-20 minutes imaginable.
I photocopy the statement and file the original.
I circle the pronouns.
I note all connections.
I have my trusted blue marker.
In just 15 minutes, I can learn if she is telling the truth or not. If deception is seen, I am almost guaranteed a second interview. This means that overnight, I will get to the specific indicators of deception.
II. The Analytical Interview
The interview is done "analytically", that is:
1. Open Ended Questions. "What happened?" and "what happened after that?", and victims rather than become impatient at repeat questions and my pause to write things down, actually greatly appreciate how careful I am. They feel "heard", sometimes, for the first time in their lives. The statement is with me, but I do not ask questions from it, though I continually take notes and refer back to it to see if the subject is working from memory or not.
2. Questions about her answers. This is specific requests to enter her personal, subjective internal dictionary. This is where the victim, herself, defines what words mean. This is not only legally sound, but therapeutic for her and again, she feels heard.
3. Questions based upon her written statement. I am abbreviating here, but suffice for now, (the training includes mock interviewing and is quite effective) I introduce words that belong only to her that I have from:
a. her answers
b. her written statement.
4. Questions based upon her answers, again
5. Questions based upon evidence (which may include doctor's report, collateral contacts, etc)
6. Questions based upon her answers, again.
I have still not introduced a new word to her. This is where Analytical Interviewing is called the most legally sound form of interviewing. I have listened and not talked at her. I have asked her to define her own words.
7. Direct Questions It is only here that I may need to ask new questions. For victims, this is rare, but I include it because investigators will inevitably confront deceptive individuals who claim to be victims.
II. The Perpetrator
The perpetrator is given the same treatment and he is instructed to write.
I do not always leave the room and if I do, I return to check in. I want a lengthy statement. I want to know if he did it, or if he did not do it. The best way is through writing.
If he is reluctant and hands in a "minimal statement", I have asked for another statement.
"I need to know the truth from you and you have told me so little. I would like you to write more, so now, begin from the time you woke up today."
I use things similar to:
"This is your chance to be heard. I want you to be heard. I want your side to be told and there is no one better to tell your side of what happened than you."
This usually works.
Did you notice that even while persuading someone to write I have used limited speech? I avoid any emotionally or morally charged word, including "rape" or "assault" or a legal term. I want his version to be the pure version that is not influenced by anyone.
If a lawyer is present for the interview, it matters not to me. I am not there to violate his rights and I will get the information no matter who is present. If the lawyer sensors a question, I simply say to the suspect, "Is this topic something you want to avoid?" to see if he disagrees with his attorney.
I sometimes say, "Duly noted that your client should not be asked if he punched her in the face, am I correct, Counselor?" using only the words that were in the topic of questioning.
Sometimes, depending upon the subject's reaction to his lawyer, I may even repeat the above, a little bit slower, with emphasis. This says to the suspect: "You're not denying punching her in the face and he knows it."
Again, "punching in the face" had to be part of a statement or wording or denial, or something that did not come from me.
I want the truth.
I ask the accused:
1. "What happened?" and..."What happened after that?"
2. Next, I ask him questions based upon his answers only.
3. I ask him to define each term he uses wherever clarity is needed. The only exception to this rule is sex.
If the context, for example, of the word "boy" is his 21 year old friend, I will not ask him, "What is the word "boy" to you?"
I do not belabor anything unnecessarily.
Sex, however, is the one topic that you and I must never assume that we know what it means. It is the one topic of which subjectivity itself is difficult to follow. Just think of "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky" and remind yourself that what you think of sex and what the suspect thinks of sex are likely to be two very different things indeed.
It is fair minded and legally sound that he define his own words, not us.
4. Now, I introduce language from his written statement. I still have avoided any new words of my own, as I have used his words only and his answers' words, only. Now, words from the written statement are on the table.
I also know exactly where to aim my questions, guided by the marvelous blue color that he sees in my hand.
5. I now ask questions of clarity on any new wording he introduced, as well as questions based upon his answers.
6. At this point, I have a very large portrait of what happened, according to him. I have been legally sound, and he has done most all of the talking.
I now ask him questions based upon:
*The victim's statement
*The victim's interview
*the physical evidence
*collateral contacts and interviews.
This is towards the end of the interview and is where I am no longer bound by his words, but where I begin to ask specific questions, which may even include "yes or no" questions (though these are the setting for interrogation or follow up interview).
Most admissions (or confessions) come in the follow up interview.
It is here that I return to the interview armed with a full analysis.
It is here that guilty people are confronted by their guilt.
It is here that the liar will not under any circumstances look upon his lie, and lie about it.
It is here where many liars give up, and make an admission of guilt, while blaming the victim, or they walk out.
I now write up the conclusions of the interviews, in great detail.
Then, I actually do a statement analysis scan of my own report, and remove all the "unnecessary" and additional language, making it stronger and stronger, while it gets shorter and more succinct and concise.
The training for this part flows easily
The training on the interviewing is challenging, but generally enjoyed by officers because it is hands-on and it is timed, video taped and reviewed.
In the timed session, the officers are given a chance to interview me, jumping into the seat before me and begins with open ended questions.
When the officer introduces a new important word, a bell is sounded, and he "loses" the chair, and the next officer takes over and holds the chair for as long as he keeps in the rules, and asks me questions that are based upon my wording.
This often gets a lot of laughs, a lot of sweating and a lot of exasperation, but in the end, they become very good at it.
The Pivotal Case is the one where:
The officer got the written statements before the interviews.
Knew the truth from the analysis.
Conducted the interviews in a legally sound manner, using the analysis.
Got a confession or admission.
Then, others in the department stand up and take notice. His career is on the move.
The training is intense, but it is rewarding. By the time we are done, the officer's confidence is so high that he is able to say,
"I will find out what happened, and they are going to tell me everything I need to know to get to the truth."
This is an abridged outline of the training. For departments interesting in hosting a training please go to HYATT ANALYSIS for information.