The BELIEF Interviewing Model is an investigative interviewing program designed to help investigators gather and assess information from victims, witnesses, informants and suspects. Based upon more than 20 years of law enforcement investigative experience and shaped by current academic research, this method is non-confrontational and very effective sitting face-to-face during interviews or interrogations, whether it is within the context of police investigations, insurance fraud, loss prevention, or human resource investigations. It is also ideal for conducting interviews over the telephone or computer conferencing software where there are no behavioral indicators to focus on, just the person's words. Since truths and lies are told through the words people use, it makes perfect sense to have the narrative be the central focus of an interview program! Words not only carry truths and lies, but they also provide information, which is the goal of any interview...to gather information.
The system is based upon the acronym BELIEF, which stands for:
B: Build Rapport & Baseline
E: Extract Initial Account & Information
L: Listen/Look Attentively
I: Identify Key Elements & Changes
E: Expand Information
F: Follow-Up (ie: corroborate)
The acronym BELIEF reminds us to start every interview with the belief in the person and what they have to say. The benefits of believing the person up front are:
1. It is in alignment with our core values that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
2. It helps eliminate personal bias and gives people the benefit of the doubt.
3. It helps prevent contamination of the interview by eliminating signals of doubt or disbelief coming from the interviewer regarding what the person is telling them.
4. It maximizes verbal content from the individual.
5. Rather than look for deceptive cues, the interviewer focuses more on gathering, developing and testing the information obtained during the interview for veracity.
6. The questioning process is based upon the information provided by the individual being interviewed rather than a scripted interview process, particular steps to follow or a question & answer format.
7. Interviewers assess the content of the individual's account, rather than their own intuitive judgments or beliefs about the person's behavior and/or appearance, which are often false or misleading.
8. It makes it difficult for the interviewee to plan for questions in advance of the interview, since the questions are based upon what the individual says.
9. The unexpected and unpredictable questioning strategy helps break any "mental scripts" the individual has entering the interview process.
10. Allows for the implementation of tactical and strategic use of evidence during the interview, as well as employing cognitive interviewing and investigative statement analysis techniques.
Although we approach each person with BELIEF that they will be truthful, people will always have the choice to tell the truth or lie, so we must never forget that there may be a lie in there somewhere! "BELIEF"
Holding these two beliefs simultaneously may be difficult, but this balancing act will help you be more objective, encourage you to probe and test their account and the information they provide, and will promote the development of greater information through the questioning and testing process.
Maintaining this approach helps the investigator reduce or neutralize what psychologists call confirmation bias, which is the tendency of an individual to search for, interpret, or even recall information from memory in a way that confirms that individual's personal beliefs or assumptions. In essence, our brains try to confirm what they already believe and you end up finding what you are looking for, but you may miss the truth in the process.
While many interview and interrogation programs focus on looking for indicators of deception with the purpose of obtaining a confession, the BELIEF Interviewing program focuses on the narrative and the words the person uses with the purpose of obtaining information. That information is probed and assessed in a way that helps lead the interviewer to the truth!