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

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

It doesn’t begin as the Investigative Psychology Detective walks into the interrogation room.  No it begins years before, when the IP Detective was thinking about what he/she wanted to be, prior to becoming 18 years of age.  In order to be a police person you generally have to be 21 years of age.  Rarely is there something that the young law enforcement official can be until that age of 21.

The first step is going to college and becoming a man or a woman.  There are no places in the law enforcement field for children.  This doesn’t mean that some 18-21 year old men and women can’t be competent, intelligent, and ready to wear the police uniform and begin their career.

It takes more than maturity to become a great IP Detective.  It takes years of education, experience, and training to be at the top of the heap.  IP Detective’s aren’t just your run of the mill police investigator.  These detectives are special in so many ways.  They are generally a step ahead of the rest of the recruits.  Today will be the day they advance in their job skills and assignments. 

The assignment of getting the opportunity to become a respected part of the major investigation division utilizing the IP System is a dream come true.  Only a few make it to the IP Unit and only a few survive.  The training is difficult and mind breaking because at every turn, they learn something new that soon they will apply when the moment is right.

Today, the IP Detective will enter the interrogation room and take his or her position into being one of the greats for the police department.  In that moment, the IP Detective will realize that this sexual offender is either guilty or innocent.  The information obtained from the witnesses indicated that this alleged sexual offender may be guilty.  What do witnesses know?  Did the witnesses consider that the motive to accuse this individual may have something to do with the allegations?

The IP Detective introduces himself to the alleged sexual offender, John Smith.  Mr. Smith, he states as he enters the interrogation room, I am IP Detective, Jones Barringer; I am the detective who will be looking into the sexual assault allegations that you molested 10-year-old Bonita Franz.  Do you know her?  Yes, I know her he replies; she is the neighbor girl, a friend of my 10-year-old daughter Melissa.  So why do you think she accused you of sexually assaulting her. 

Both parties consider the significance of the alleged sexual offender’s testimony.  The IP Detective knows what strategies the alleged sexual offender will use, as the possibilities are limited and the IP Detective has heard such information from his/her experience in dealing with a potential sex offender.  On the other side of the table, the alleged sexual offender awaits his opportunity to tell the reasons why he committed the sexual assault or deny the event.

I have found over the years that sexual offenders want to tell someone why they committed the sexual assault.  At the heart of the allegations is generally a lonely, depressed, and confused individual who intentionally sexually assaulted the child because it is the only way they can receive sexual gratification.

Then there is the individual who the IP Detective will have difficulty in defining if he/she committed the sexual assault.  Immediately upon entering the interrogation room, the alleged sexual offender will deny that he did anything sexually to the child.  During the first couple of minutes, the IP Detective would be wise to establish rapport with the alleged sexual offender and bring the anxiety and nervousness to calm. 

Allowing the environment in the interrogation room to feel calm, the alleged sexual offender generally calms down.  If the IP Detective is standoffish and acts as if he could eat the alleged sexual offender, the alleged sexual offender will feel the negative vibes and will either shut-up and/or as to speak to his/her attorney.  The alleged sexual offender is generally very intelligent and they can perceive when the IP Detective, no matter what they say, is not going to listen to their side of the story.

If the alleged sexual offender decides to ask for his/her attorney, the IP Detective will immediately assume that the alleged sexual offender has something to hide.  Imagine you being accused of being a sexual offender and an IP Detective comes into the interrogation room with steam coming out of his nose and ears; would you want to talk to the IP Detective?  I think not.  This would scare anyone and the best way to defuse the situation would be to use that ace in the hole called the 5th amendment, “I wish to talk to my lawyer”.

As both individuals maneuver themselves in the interrogation room, one of them will take control and win the confrontation.  If the alleged sexual offender didn’t commit the crime, the IP Detective will have his/her work cut-out for themselves.  If the alleged sexual offender did commit the sexual assault, then it will be only a matter of time until the alleged sexual offender turns out to be a ‘sexual offender’.

Tomorrow, I will continue to raise questions about the questioning of an alleged sexual offender and how the IP Detective can overcome these denials that he/she didn’t commit the sexual assault.  You will find the interrogation process interesting as the conflict that occurs between the IP Detective and the alleged sexual offender can be a chest game, one with mental moves, which can be and sometimes are fascinating.

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