Investigative Psychology – What Does It Mean And How Can It Help Law Enforcement Investigations?Evaluating The IP System And Detective Part XIII“The Interrogation”

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

There are over a million child abuse and neglect cases reported in the United States every year. Of those reported only a small percentage of them are investigated by law enforcement officials. The reasons are the information reported does not constitute an investigation; some of the complaints are family needs services complaints; some of the complaints have nothing to do with child abuse and neglect matters; and etc.
Whatever the reasons are for the allegation not being forward on to the police, the more important those complaints which are taken in by Child Protective Services (CPS) and law enforcement (sometimes reported to L/E) should be considered having some merit i.e. that possibly the theme, where there is smoke there may be fire.

This should not change the law enforcement official’s neutral and objective fact-finding child sexual abuse investigation. With some information in hand law enforcement officials can begin an investigation and ascertain if there is any merit to the allegations. If there is a fire and smoke, the IP Detective will quickly find the information in the first couple interviews.

The responsibility of determining if a possible crime has occurred will be the decision of the IP Detective. The IP Detective needs to have the necessary discernment and judgment to make such decision(s). Too often the IP Detective will become a life saver; an advocate for the alleged victim; the martyr; the zealot, and etc.

Whatever the IP Detective becomes he/she should have a supervisor who is willing to question the IP Detective’s motive, when the IP Detective already has their mind made up prior to interrogating the alleged sexual offender. It is up to the IP Detective to make sure he/she has their head on straight and the type of questions he/she raises are not placing and/or pointing blame. In the interrogation the IP Detective will at some point need to come to the conclusion if the alleged sexual offender is telling the truth or lying. If the interrogation up to this point has been beneficial i.e. information has been gathered that indicates a crime was committed, then the IP Detective needs to confront the alleged sexual offender and get to the bottom of what happened.

In an interrogation the IP Detective has to determine how to properly conduct the interrogation. Will the IP Detective be a bad guy first or a good guy. If the IP Detective begins the interview as the bad guy, he/she will never be able to become the good guy. Therefore, it is advisable that the IP Detective begin the interrogation as the good guy and if that fails to bring about positive and productive results, then the IP Detective can move the interrogation up a level to the bad guy.

The IP Detective needs to decide if he/she wants to receive a confession at that date and time. Having someone admit that they sexually assaulted a child is embarrassing, degrading and shameful. The alleged sexual offender knows that he/she did something wrong and it is up to the IP Detective to give the alleged sexual offender a way out, in order for him/her to say, “I did it.”

The statistics of how many individuals are confessing to a crime has changed over the past four decades. When I was a Detective in the Special Assault Unit, the confession rate for our Unit was approximately 65%. Today, because of many television shows, individuals have the understanding and knowledge that they no longer have to talk to the law enforcement officials, in fact they have the Fifth Amendment that states they can remain silent. This is the IP Detective’s worse nightmare. The last thing an investigator wants is the alleged sexual offender to say, “I want to invoke my rights and wish to speak to an attorney.” The new statistics on confessions is down to 48% nationally. The decrease because of the reasons stated has substantially fallen.

In the interrogation room anything can happen. Maybe the IP Detective and the alleged sexual offender become good friends quickly and the alleged sexual offender decides it is time to let it all come out. The initial contact between the IP Detective and alleged sexual offender generally determines if the alleged sexual offender will be honest and confess to the alleged crime.

In conducting an interrogation, the alleged sexual offender is at a disadvantage for the most part. The reasons are the alleged sexual offender has no idea what information the IP Detective has gathered; he/she has no idea what evidence the IP Detective has collected; he/she has no idea what the medical evidence demonstrates; and other information the IP Detective collected from witnesses who had information about the alleged sexual assault.

At some point during the interrogation, the IP Detective will either begin to believe the alleged sexual offender didn’t commit the crime and/or he/she is lying. Whatever the case may be the IP Detective must act professional at all times and demonstrate respect to the alleged sexual offender. The old saying is you get more with honey than you do with vinegar means so much in an interrogation situation.

The IP Detective will have to make a determination of how much information he/she is willing to share with the alleged sexual offender as if the IP Detective provides too much information it may tell the alleged sexual offender the information and evidence the IP Detective has at the time of the interrogation.

The length of the interrogation can be as long as two minutes to twenty hours. The length of the interrogation is predicated upon the environmental conditions of the interrogation room. Such things as the alleged sexual offender was offered bathroom breaks, smoke brakes, water breaks and telephone calls. If the alleged sexual offender is granted these things throughout the interrogation then it is unlikely that the courts would find that the potential confession was made because of coercion.

Tomorrow, I will continue examining the nuances and subtleties of an interrogation and how the IP Detective needs to make his/her approach solid, credible and  reliable. There are so many facets when dealing with  an alleged sexual offender that I could continue to write until the end of time. Instead I will continue to bring the highlights and significant aspects of what  an interrogation should be when  dealing within the IP System and IP Detective.



 Forensic Child Sexual Abuse Investigations Part 1 
   By: Lawrence W. Daly                                                             
  Webinar Time- September 22, 2011 1:00 pm -2:00pm
   Registration Fee - $99.00

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