This week, Professor Laure Brooks’ CCJS340 Policing class had a guest speaker, Sergeant Steve Remick, from the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia. Sergeant Remick provided insight about his work when he was a detective, mainly interviewing work.
The work of a detective is very challenging and requires certain skills. Through his years of experience, Sergeant Remick has learned the following:
Police don’t interrogate people, they interview people about a crime. It is important to start out the interview soft and not accusatory. They must develop a rapport with the person. They must empathize and associate with the person so he or she opens up to the interviewer. It is very important that the person keeps talking.
A custodial interview involves a person in custody for a crime while a consensual interview is with a person who has come in on their own and can leave the interview at any time.
Police can lie during the interview, but they cannot fabricate evidence. The problem with lying to a person during an interview is once the person realizes you are lying, it destroys the interview and the person will stop talking. #1 rule – don’t lie during an interview.
Some tips for conducting a good interview,
- Always interview the person alone, not with a group of friends or family members. It easier to develop a connection with an individual.
- Be respectful and honest.
- Get them what they want or need, such as cigarettes, food, etc.
- Listen and let the person talk
- Build a connection.
- Lots of eye contact and open body language.
- Empathize with the person to make the person believe you really care about them.
- Truly understand the person you are interviewing.
- Create a safe and comfortable environment where the person feels safe. Sometimes it better to move the interview, interview rooms can be cold and uncomfortable.
- Ensure there are no objects between you and the person – you must break down barriers.
- Interviews can last hours or even days, not the 5 minutes shown on television.
- Good cop/bad cop doesn’t work, they just see the bad cop as a jerk.
During an interview, carefully watch the person’s behavior. Closed arms and no eye contact are things that will be obstacles and it is an indication that you need to back off with your current techniques. Watch the person for remorse or signs of feeling guilty about their actions, look for signs the person is worried about what will happen to them next.
The detective can let the person know that being honest will help them get consideration from the prosecutor and judges. Being honest and helping to solve the crime is looked at favorably by the justice system when determining charges and during sentencing. The more information provided by the person gives them a stronger position in getting some considerations later in the process. When determining considerations, the courts will also look at the severity of crime, lack of remorse, and criminal history.
Prisoners talk to each other about detective’s behavior. A police officer’s reputation and credibility on the streets counts a lot. In order to do their job well, they can’t be a jerk or people won’t work with them to help them solve the case. If police officers lie or take advantage of situations and cross into the gray areas, it can be very damaging to them and the police force. There is a lot of pressure to solve crimes and get results, but a police officer must keep his/her reputation and credibility intact and not bend to pressures and cross the line. They can’t afford to sacrifice their honesty and credibility. They must know the laws, the constitution and the bill of rights at all times to ensure they don’t cross the wrong lines.
Partners during an interview can be very helpful. A partner might connect better to the person than the original interviewer and the partner may see something that was missed.
Cop shows are TV, there’s nothing real about it. Some parts of the television show are created and sometimes false. Remember, they only show the aspects they believe are important and they determine what they want you to see. Besides, cop shows always solve the crime in 50 minutes, which is not very realistic.
The most challenging crimes to handle are crimes against children. It is difficult to get the incident out of the officer’s head. It takes a lot to empathize with this type of criminal because it is so wrong. These criminals are difficult to catch as they seem very normal and the crimes are unknown to most people. Two thirds of offenders have anti-social issues. Criminals are very good manipulators so police must also be good manipulators. Socio-pathetic people have no remorse, they are most concerned about getting away with the crime. Don’t promote their evil behavior but understand their justification for the crime.
Property crimes are about making money. It is easier to connect with and understand this type of criminal. It is easier to empathize with the monetary aspect of this crime. Crimes against people like seniors or children make it very difficult to find common ground or emotion in order to connect with this criminal.
Sergeant Remick was asked many questions from his student audience and the students were very receptive to his presentation.