The logical Approach
Interrogation Technique
by John Bowden & Robert Taylor
In the interrogation we are asking our subjects to make a decision, one
where they decide to share with us their side of the story.  Some
interrogators try the frontal approach.  “You did it, we have witnesses, we
have prints, we have DNA, we have hairs, and we have footprints. You
Might As Well Confess!”  This is a classic television show Interrogation; I
call this the overwhelming evidence approach.  It can work, but it can also
push the subject into not speaking or asking for his attorney.  People do
not like to be pushed; however, they do like to be involved in the process
and the decision making. As in sales, we are trying to get around the
person’s resistance and get them involved. By their involvement in the
process, we can lead them to a confession.

As you present your investigation, have the subject acknowledge what you
have said.  In essence, you will be leading him down the garden path to the
green house.  With each step that you point out, you have him
acknowledge it.  You do not need him to agree with you, you only need the
acknowledgement that you said it.  

Here is an example of the process:

      The introduction sets the stage for your pitch.

Inv:        Tom, we have been working on this case for a long time.  Not just me but our entire team of
            investigators, crime scene technicians and lab workers.  We often bring in outside consultants with
           special skills to help us evaluate the evidence.  We have talked to a lot of people and pulled
           this case together.

The interactive pitch:

Inv:        Tom,  you have heard of DNA evidence haven’t you?  (Have good eye contact and nod yes
            as  you deliver this.)

Tom:        Yes. (Hopefully nodding his head with yours.)

Inv:        Tom, you know that footprints can be used in cases, Don’t you? (still nodding yes.)

Tom:        Yea.  (Nodding head in agreement.)

Inv:        Tom, You know there are video cameras everywhere, don’t you? (Nodding)

Tom:        Yea. (nodding)

Inv:        Tom,  when something like this happens we talk to a lot of people.  Right?

Tom:        Uh huh.

Inv:         Who do you think people look out for when we talk to them?

Tom:        Themselves

Inv:        That’s right Tom, themselves. Tom, you have to look after yourself don’t you?

Tom:        Yea.

Inv:        Tom, I have looked at this case from all sides except your side.  You are a good guy, you take
           care of your family don’t you?

Tom:        Yea.

Inv:        You have a good job which shows you are reliable, Right?

Tom:        Yea.

Inv:        Tom, this tells me you have your side of what happened, don’t you?

Tom:        Well, Um….

Inv:        Yes you do, I know it, right?  Yes?

Tom:        (A low voice, a slight nod.)  Uh huh.

Inv:        That’s what I thought; it’s your side that matters. You don’t want someone else to say what
           happened, do you? (shaking your head no)

Tom:        No. (shaking his head no)

Inv:        Yeah, that’s what I thought, I feel the same. Let’s get your side out, OK? (nodding yes.)

Tom:        (nodding yes.) OK.

Inv:        (Rewarding the agreement) That’s good Tom, tell me where it started, the beginning.
           (You can also put this in the form of a question ie: “Tom, did it start with the bills?”  
           Make your question relevant to the case.)

From here you go into your queries, asking simple short questions, rewarding each answer.  This process is
natural for the subject, involving them in the conversation, leading them to wanting to share their side of the
story.  It is the involvement in the conversation that leads to their sharing their story.

Recently I spoke to
Detective Robert Taylor of the Alvin Police Department in Texas.  He shared another
strategy with me that works on the same principal of getting the person involved in the conversation, leading
them to tell their side of the story.  With his permission I present it here for your review.

The Lying Child Strategy.

Me:         We teach our children to be honest, be a man, stand up and take responsibility.  
             Let’s say you’re about to go outside to work on your car and you have a young son that is
             going to be in the house by himself.  You leave him alone for a while.  When you come back
             into the house a few minutes later, there lies a broken lamp on the floor. You ask your son
            what happened and he says, “I don’t know what happened.  I found it that way.”  
            How do you feel about  that?  Do you punish him?

Suspect:         I guess.

Me:         Do you punish him for breaking the lamp or lying about it?

Suspect:         Both, I guess.

Me:         But if you want to make a point you have to focus on the more serious issue.
            Which one do you punish him for?

Suspect:         I guess for lying.

Me:          Now let’s say it is the same scenario, except when you come back in and ask him about the lamp he
              says, “I broke it dad. I was bored. I was throwing the ball and I hit it. I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed
              to throw the ball in the house, but I didn’t think about it.”  How do you feel about that?

Suspect:         I guess not so bad.

Me:        Would you still punish him?  If so, would it be as hard of a punishment?  Wouldn’t you be impressed
           by his actions?  Wouldn’t you almost feel a sense of pride of your son for being a man, for stepping up?

Suspect:         Yes, I guess.

Me:         You guess??

Suspect:        No, I would be.

Me:         Now let’s say I take you before a judge, a jury, a district attorney and I said, “I am investigating a crime
            and John Doe (insert his name) here is my primary suspect and here are the reasons and all of the
            evidence. I asked John and he told me to go pound sand. He said he has no idea what I’m talking
            about. ”Think about that for a minute.

Suspect:         Okay.

Me:         Now let’s say I take you before a judge and I say I am investigating a crime and John here is my
             primary suspect and here are the reasons and all of the evidence. I asked John and he said,
            “Your honor I did  it. I made a bad decision/I’m addicted to drugs/I needed money to feed my kids, but
           "I m a good person and I am willing to take responsibility for my actions. I’m sorry and I have learned   
           from this and I won’t do it again.”  Now John, if you’re the judge and you want to make an example of
            one of  these guys, you want to hammer one of these guys, which one would it be?

Suspect:         I guess the first one.

Me:       You “guess?” You know! You’re damn right you would hammer that first guy.  You’d be thinking about
           that second guy more though. You’d be thinking “Wow, that doesn’t happen very often.  I’m impressed!”

Me:        Right?  Right John?

Suspect:         Yes, sir.

Me:         Which guy do you want to be?  You going to be that first guy or the second guy?

Suspect: The second guy, I guess.

Me:         You guess??  You know damn well you wanna be that second guy!  
             Now John, which guy are you GOING to be?

There are intentional pauses for reflection, and strong emphasis on some points to help paint the mental
image. From here the subject makes the decision to share their story.  Reward each bit of information and
continue to get the next piece.

I do believe the more strategies you have in your arsenal, the better interrogator you will be. This one may or
may not work with subjects that do not have children.  One of the secrets of getting the confession is knowing
what strategy will work with which subject.  See more strategies in my book
“Interview to Confession, The Art
of the Gentle Interrogation.”