Cognitive Interviewing is a powerful technique of investigative interviewing that significantly improves victim and witness memory. Some of the first people we interview during an investigation are victims and witnesses. These interviews set the foundation for the entire investigation, and just like a building, if the foundation is weak the entire structure (or case) can be condemned! This can lead to many hours spent on dead leads, inaccurate witness information, or running down misleading or deceptive responses. Also, in the hundreds of cases where people have been exonerated for crimes the DIDN'T commit, about 75% involve faulty witness information! We teach Cognitive Interviewing throughout the country, and in 2014 we will be running Cognitive Interviewing Online! This will give you a great opportunity to learn some of these skills right from the comfort of your own home or office. So hopefully in 2014 I will see you online or in person!
On July 20, 2012, a mass shooting occurred inside a movie theater in Colorado during a midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight Rises. A gunman, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. The sole suspect, James Holmes, was arrested outside the cinema minutes later. This case is going to trail and one of the initial responding officers testified that he asked Holmes twice whether he had an accomplice, but Holmes only looked at him and smiled. The Officer described the smile as "a self-satisfying offensive smirk". The Prosecutor called the alleged smirk "a nonverbal statement that meant something" and said it should be admissible at his trial. She said later it was "a statement of satisfaction" with the shootings.
What is interesting is that I Googled for photos of a “smirk” and most of what I found were photos of people with an asymmetrical smile with one side of their mouth pulled up and pinched in the corner, which is a universal expression of feelings of contempt. As an experiment, right now smile like you were happy and satisfied with a job you completed. Was it even, both sides of your mouth engaged and even your eye muscles engaged? Now smirk or make a facial expression to show contempt at a person or situation. Was it different? Was only one side of your mouth pulled up? I bet the expressions were different, and the emotions that make those facial expressions are different as well. The Prosecutor was probably correct with her assumption that his “smirk” was a nonverbal statement that meant something, but maybe not a statement of satisfaction as she suggested which would likely evoke a genuine smile, but rather one of contempt, either for the officer or for the victims of the shooting.
One of the ironies of communication is that we all want to be listened to, but we do not want to listen. Maybe on some level we WANT to listen but we simply don't do it well, mostly because we are thinking of what we want to say next...so our partner can listen to US.
In my work and training with law enforcement and private sector investigators I have found this to be true as well. Investigators may plan and prepare thoroughly for an interview or interrogation, which is crucial to an effective outcome, but they become so focused on what they are going to say, the questions they want to ask and the answers they need that they fail to listen effectively. This can derail an interview or interrogation and make all your planning pointless.
Failing to listen to the person we are talking with sends the message that what they have to say is not important. If the person perceives from your behavior, demeanor or questioning process that you are not really listening to them, they will not want to spend the time with you and likely will not provide a full account of what they know. Secondly, by failing to listen we miss the information they are telling us; not only the main message or the intent of their message, but the subtle messages that lay hidden within their narrative. The subtle messages may be saying "I am leaving something out but I don't want you to know about it" but all the investigator hears is "and after that I went home and went to bed. That's about it."
We have to make the effort to really listen to the people we talk with throughout our investigations, whether they are the complainant, victim, witness, informant or suspect. Certainly make sure that you take the time to plan and prepare for the interview or interrogation, but during the interview also make sure you really listen to what the person is saying, how they are saying it and what they may be saying it at this point. There is much more to this by understanding Investigative Statement Analysis, but they key point here is to really hone your listening skills and you will be more effective within you interviews and interrogations. Below is an interesting TED Talk on how and why we are losing our ability to listen and 5 things we can do to improve our listening ability by Julian Treasure.
Georgina Heydon provided a great presentation at the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group conference this year. Her presentation was on linguistics for interviewing training. Check it out below:
When conducting interviews and interrogations, quite often a deceptive person will intentionally misdirect the interviewer. They do this to lead the questioning away from them in at attempt to convince the interviewer that they were not involved in the incident and have no information to provide. They do this right in front of the interviewer and he or she does not even know it! It happens right before their eyes, but they don’t know what to look for so the bad guys and liars slip away undetected. There are a couple things that can help: 1) Knowing how the human mind perceives, interprets and encodes information is extremely important to any interviewer or interrogator, and this can be developed through training in Cognitive Interviewing. 2) Improving your ability to detect deceptive and evasive language in speech and writing, and understand and identify when people are conveying information from memory and when they are trying to convince you that they are innocent. This can be developed through training in Investigative Statement Analysis. Also, to highlight this further, check out this entertaining video from Apollo Robbins: