Friday, October 9, 2015
Cold Case Difficulties: Navigating Sensitive Professionals
"I got it!"
Investigators face a unique criticism of their work and to solve a closed or cold case can often appear to be an indictment, or even a condemnation of the original investigators. This touches upon the investigators' professional pride and unless there is striking new evidence, or a new witness, it will reflect the failure of the original investigation.
There is no other way of looking at it.
This is even heightened to a far more extreme when the Cold Case investigator uses advanced lie detection techniques in reviewing the original interviews. Here is just how difficult it can be:
A murder has taken place and investigators work the case in great detail with the main suspect in the case cleared.
His alibi has held up, and he passed his polygraph.
He had called 911 and made the original report and gave lengthy, cooperative interviews to police, passed his polygraph, and satisfied everyone from the investigators to the coroner to the assistant district attorney.
His 911 call is less than 5 minutes and along comes an analyst who says,
"The 911 call says that he committed the murder, and it yields his motive."
What do you think the reaction of the investigators will be to this statement?
You are likely correct.
Yet, the investigators are torn as they want justice for the victim, just as much as the next citizen, but also do not want to be seen as "utterly" wrong in their life's work, on an important case.
The Cold Case investigator, trained in analysis, had the analysis itself support his own belief and then has the interviews analyzed, and then finally, after the analysis is submitted, including the conclusion, he shares the case file, all which lead up to...a change of heart by the District Attorney and a change of report by the coroner and finally:
the suspect's arrest.
How would you feel if you were the original investigators?
How would you react if you were the original investigators?
How you feel, and how you react are hopefully two different things. This is where even Human Resource interviewing and noting the element of humility rise to the surface.
The original investigators feel conflicted: they want to defend their work, but they also want justice. They worked long and hard and may have even had suspicions and may have even cleared the suspect reluctantly, especially with a passed polygraph. Now, the polygrapher's work is examined, too, which likely will reveal: the suspect used the language of the polygrapher to pass: it is the single greatest way to "defeat" the polygraph. (This is a complex issue, but the assertion stands).
An investigator may, however, act upon a deeper sense of humility and wish for training in the analyzing of statements and advanced lie detection.
Cold Case investigators can help facilitate this appropriate response by their own humility and approaching the original detectives with respect and an attitude of team work. The Cold Case detective can explain some of the more deeper issues in lie detection and even help the original detectives in gaining training for themselves and explain how they too, without formal training, would not have caught the critical area of deception, and needed help in the "content analysis" that uncovered attendant crimes, a psychological profile that yielded personality type (which led to follow up collateral interviews for verification), strategy for new interview, and lastly, the actual motive of the crime.
These were not found in "lie detection", but in the deeper analysis of content.
Cold Case investigators are sometimes police assigned to cold cases, but organizations dedicated to cold cases are often retired investigators, attorneys, dedicated professionals who volunteer their time and effort, and citizens who simply care.
They too can, and must, create an atmosphere of "us" and "we" with the original investigators, and not barge in with a high-minded superiority that insults those who are already dealing with complex emotions of having not succeeded at their jobs.
Team work is key.
If many files contain "pronoun by confess" obtaining the files takes diplomacy unless so ordered. Even with some cooperation, reluctance born of insult will likely mean valuable verbal information, including intuition, will be withheld.
The private thoughts of the original investigators could prove invaluable to a case, but could be lost through our own attitudes.
Humility often rises while pride and ego clash until an inevitable slip and fall take place.
This is more the scenario of magnification in dealing with cases that families are counting on to be solved, but have gone cold.