Art of Interrogation


A sweating suspect under the scrutiny of an overzealous cop is what comes to mind during an interrogation at a police station.  There are actually many other ways to get a suspect to spill the beans and to read their actions with their body and eyes, sometimes it is obvious and other times it is more subtle.

As with many things these days, the word interrogation has been replaced with interview.  I like to call it what it is, an interrogation.  Interrogative procedures are used to obtain a confession, admission of guilt, or illicit helpful information from a suspect in regard to an investigation.

In my Emily Stone Series, she rarely uses interrogation techniques.  However, she does use her skills in observation to track a suspect along with criminal profiling and crime scene investigation skills.

I have met several police officers throughout my writing career and research, and it’s amazing to observe how they question suspects as well as witnesses.  Each person has a way of relating to different people to make them feel comfortable or in the hot seat.  Let’s face it; it’s intimidating to be at a police department.  Being around police officers is like any other task for me, but I notice that other people get fidgety and look guilty even when they’re not.

The main purpose of the police interrogation:

  1. Establish the innocence of a suspect(s) by clearing up facts that seem to point to guilt.
  2. Obtain from the suspect(s) (from friends and family) the names of accomplices, facts surrounding the crime, follow-up leads and alibi(s), location of physical evidence, or stolen goods.
  3. Obtain from the suspect(s) an admission or confession.

It’s interesting that many people feel compelled to confess to their crime.  Especially when they are confronted with the accusation and the facts.

The psychological works of Milton W. Horowitz helps to explain this phenomenon with five social-psychological conditions as to why people confess:

  1. Accusation

The accusation may be explicit and made directly at the start of the interrogation.  It’s the attitude and demeanor from the investigator that the suspect feels cornered and there’s no other way out.

2.  Evidence available

It’s the realization of the suspect that there is evidence available against them.  When hard evidence is produced, they have been “caught with the goods” and there’s no other way out.

3.  Forces – friendly & hostile

When a suspect is dealing with friendly or hostile factors it causes a psychological uneasiness, which may be conducive to a confession.  The suspect must believe that he/she is alone, cut off, and feel that confessing is the only way out.

4.  Guilty feelings

Many criminals don’t have guilty feelings (especially psychopaths), but some have the need to get a burden off their chest.

5.  Confession – a way out

Confessing is a multi-faced action.  People being interrogated are often unaware of their vulnerability and weakness until an authority accuses them.  In combination with evidence, their own guilt, mindful loneliness, and the need for relief of their burden.  Many people will confess as a way out.

* * *

More on articles on crime scene investigation:

Crime Scenes Tell a Story

Impression Evidence Takes a Front Row Seat at Crime Scenes

When is a Crime Scene Staged?


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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3 Responses to Art of Interrogation

  1. Caleb Pirtle says:

    Interrogation is not a science. It’s an art. Some have it. And some don’t. I believe that if a writer doesn’t understand the nuances of solid interrogation techniques, he or should never write the interrogation scene unless the author’s motive is to throw a wrench into the investigation.


  2. Pingback: My buddy, blogger and author Jennifer Chase, with some fascinating insight into the world of interrogation…:) | Thomas Rydder

  3. Jane Risdon says:

    Congratulations on your well deserved award Jennifer, so pleased for you. Well done, and enjoy it. xx


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