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Refined Field Interrogation Techniques For Security Careers

Aug 17, 2007
If you are already familiar with the Reid technique and some of the standard methods of obtaining information from an uncooperative subject, here are some extra tips. Be warned up front: coercion in any form is still illegal and immoral. With the correct use of psychological tactics, however, regular ordinary field interrogation is all you need anyway. These are all techniques that are useful in acquiring information from uncooperative subjects in the field during your day-to-day work.

* The Futility technique. This is the same method applied in step one of the Reid technique, but useful at any time inside or outside of an interrogation. In short, bluff. The goal is to convince the subject that you're on to them, the jig is up, they've already been caught. Point to a visible camera and suggest that what they've done is on tape. If there isn't any camera, refer to a hidden camera. Hold up a thick file with their name on it, suggesting that they can cooperate on this matter or you can dive into their past record - the fact that the file contains only a ream of blank paper is not necessary to disclose. A great technique is to be scribbling on a notepad as you walk up to the subject. Maybe you have their license plate, description, and report already written, or maybe you're just doodling.

* The Failure technique. One application is in the case of multiple subjects who were acting as a team, such as a gang, who are now split up and being interrogated separately. Again, bluff. the co-conspirators have already confessed, and if the subject doesn't cough up their side of the story, they'll look worse. Make them think, "Those dirty rats! They squealed on me, but I'll show them!" Or in the case of one subject, act with a dismissive air, belittling the subject's criminal "smarts". What little imagination they showed; don't they know that you bust people like them all the time? What, did they think they'd actually get away with it? Blow things out of proportion to make it seem as if they were stupid to think their plot would have worked in the first place, and in any case has led to their utter failure now.

* The "Mis-charged" technique. This is an especially deceptive ploy. Make it seem like either (a) you have the subject confused with a much more serious offender, or (b) are actually charging them with a much more serious crime by mistake. This is kind of a shaky method that will only work in some situations. The idea is to get the subject to voluntarily tell the truth to clear the record. "Ooooh, so you were just trespassing, you didn't steal anything? OK, you've confessed to trespassing, you're going in!"

* The "Gang Up" technique. If you have several officers and one subject, you can have all of them present and take turns interrogating him. Simply practice a standard interrogation one on one with one officer, then when they are finished have the next officer begin the interrogation from step one. Repeat for each officer. Each interrogation should be treated as the first time, as if the others didn't happen, but as the subject tells their story over, any holes or inconsistencies between one version and another should be pounced on and pursued further. The idea is to wear down a reluctant subject's resistance, making them work harder and harder to keep their lies straight. Almost devastatingly effective. Be careful, as this can be construed as borderline coercion.

* The Repetition technique. Well, you don't have a bunch of officers to gang up with, there's just you? Fine, then, interrogate the subject yourself over and over again. Proceed all the way to the end, then start over at the beginning again as if the previous interrogations never happened. Act rote and routine, with no indication of when it will end. Make it clear that you have all day, and all night if that's what it takes. Be careful again, as this can also be construed as borderline coercion.

* The Rapid-Fire technique. This is not so much a technique, as a general style you need for every interrogation. Keep the pace quick wherever you don't need to slow down for the sake of an effect. The faster the interrogation moves, the more talking you make the subject do, the less time they will have to think up lies. This technique comes from practice, practice, and more practice. Remember that you're a professional doing your job, where your subject is only occasionally interrogated in their lifetime. Keep it moving faster than they can think.

* The Silent technique. Not really a technique, just a general tip: when the subject is finally talking and telling you what you need to know, shut up and keep writing it down. If they stop talking, pause and wait for them to say more. Once they're confessing, it is a natural human impulse for them to feel relieved. So they will naturally keep volunteering more and more information to fill in the silences.

* The Introduction technique. This is similar to the Gang-Up method, but the officers are introduced one at a time. First there was just you, and you've been interrogating for quite a while. Now a new officer joins you, but this officer has or suggests a higher rank. The new officer begins the interrogation anew, but in a harder, more drilling manner. Then, after a while, another officer, of an even higher rank and with a more experienced air, joins the scene. The idea is to create in the subject's mind a doubt that they will be able to keep their lies straight in the face of the successively "better" officers questioning them. Make them think "I was able to fool Barney Fife, but will I be successful with his superior?" This also creates the fear in the subject that they are "getting into deeper and deeper trouble" each time a new officer joins the scene.

Kind of fun! Remember never to cross the line into out-and-out coercion. There has been an especial amount of media attention towards questionable interrogation practices in these times of heightened national security. But as long as you keep it to a normal conversation without explicitly making threats or causing the subject undue discomfort, you are within rights. In a way, psychological techniques are a kind of "brain-hacking", where you need to push the right buttons to make the subject give you the information you were looking for.
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