Webinar presenter Sheriff Ray Nash (ret) answered a number of your questions after his presentation, “Introduction to the Inductive Interview System.” Here are a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Given the high stakes of many interviews, how do we develop our inductive interviewing skills?
Ray Nash: The first thing is you’ve got to understand the principles behind them. So, I’d encourage you to take a look at one of our upcoming seminars, certainly, stay tuned in to these webinars that we’re doing. There’s a limit to what we can do, obviously, in a short webinar, we can just touch the surface. There’s a lot of material out there and there’s stuff that’s available on the internet. There are books that have been written on the topic. So, I would say, work on developing your skills and then put them into practice. You know what a fun thing to do is? It’s to put them into practice while you’re watching TV.
Go watch an episode of the Forensic Files or go watch the latest politician that’s got into some kind of hot water over something and listen and pay very close attention on what they say, how they say it, what their mannerisms are, and try to pick up on some of these indicators, these verbal and behavioral indicators of deception. You can even apply these to fictional TV shows and movies, it’s amazing.
These indicators, these verbal and behavioral linkages, are so ingrained in the who we are as individuals and it is extraordinarily hard to mask them even when you’re an actor. And the writers of these shows, and I think that they do these, I don’t think they do these consciously, I think it’s all unconsciously. They write a lot of these indicators, these verbal and behavioral indicators, they write them into the script because they know, because they’re the writers, whether the person’s telling the truth or not on the Tv show or the movie and you can pick this stuff up even though it’s a fictional account. It’s amazing, my family is so frustrated at me because I can solve these mysteries within the opening moments because whoever it is going to end up being the guilty party is giving up indicators even though it’s scripted. It’s fun to play around with that. So, develop your own competencies and practice.
Audience Question: Do you have any good tips for formulating good interview questions?
Ray Nash: Yes, and we do a whole section in the clarification portion of it as well as the induction portion. I’ll give you a real quick overview. One of the most powerful questioning techniques that you can employ during a forensic interview, or any interview for that matter, is something called a “presumptive question.” We didn’t get to it today, obviously, but a presumptive question goes something like these:
- “What was the most money that you ever took out of the till at one time?”
- “Where was the first house that you broke into?” or “Where was the last house that you broke into?”
- “How many times did you take something out of the stockroom that didn’t belong to you?”
- “How many times did you touch that little girl’s privates?”
- “How old was he the first time you had sexual contact with him?”
All of these questions are presumptive questions because they’re presuming that you’re guilty of doing it. Now, an innocent person will say “I never did it! I didn’t do it at all. There never was a first time.” They’ll object and they’ll deny.
But a guilty person, a lot of times, will say “Ok, he’s got me.” So, they’ll respond to the question but they’ll minimize it, “Well, it’s just that one time.” Well, now you got a disclosure and now you got a disclosure that you could start to build on, maybe it was more than one time.
Just yesterday, I was doing a forensic interview with a convicted sex offender, he’s a sex offender registry and he’s convicted on child porn charges and so my interview was about compliance with probation. And he made a disclosure that some porn had popped up on his computer, he opened an email and it just popped up and he didn’t have any control of it and he made that as a disclosure. So, I started to build on that disclosure, so I said, “How many pop-ups was it?” “Oh, it was like over a hundred of them.” And I said, “How many of those did you actually look at?” “I looked at about ten.” I said, “So, could it possibly be more than ten?” and he said, “Well, possibly.” And my response was, “What’s the most possibly it could have been?” “Well, it could have been twenty.” I said, “Could it possibly be more than twenty?” “Well, possibly.” “What’s the most it could possibly be?” “Well, it could have been thirty.” I had him at over thirty before the thing was over with just by asking presumptive questions. So, a presumptive question presumes that you already know they’re guilty and the guilty party will buy this, kind of like fishing. We call the induction phase, white fishing. You’re casting out bait, a presumptive question is a bait.
Another good one is an enticement question. This will take more time to develop but I’ll just throw it out real quick. An enticement question goes something like these:
- “Is there any reason that you can think of that your DNA would have been found at the crime scene?”
- “Is there any reason that you can think of that your fingerprint might have been on the knife that was used in this crime?
- “Is there any reason you can think of that your image might have been caught on some security footage from the lobby of this bank?”
- “Is there any reason you can think of that your license plate might have popped up on a license plate scanner in the area of the crime?”
- “Is there any reason you can think of that your cellphone might have pinged off a tower in that area on the night of the crime?”
Now, these are hypothetical questions. I’m not falsifying evidence and I’m not making it sound like I’ve got this evidence, I’m just throwing out a hypothetical. And a guilty party will be coming up with explanatory denial trying to explain away, “Well, yeah, you know, I might have touched that knife the last time I was over there in that place,” or “I might have been in the lobby of that bank that one time,” or “I was down the road at a coffee shop but I didn’t go down that street.” They’ll offer these explanatory denials, whereas an innocent person will often say, “Well, no, I’ve never been to the crime scene, so there’s no reason that my DNA should be there unless someone planted it there.”
So, these are called enticement questions. You got to be a little careful with those, those are kind of an advanced technique and you want to guard against false confessions. You don’t want to plant the seed that you’ve got evidence that you don’t have because falsifying evidence can lead to a false confession and we always want to guard against false confession. We spent a lot of time on the induction phase of the training to show you how to, once you get a confession, how to confirm the confession. You don’t stop when you get the confession, you confirm it because false confessions are a very real concern. They are a real thing and we need to be, as professionals, particularly mindful of that because the only thing worse than our go-to person goes free is locking up an innocent person unjustly. And we need to guard against that.
Audience Question: If we have a short amount of time to build rapport, what element do you recommend that we start with?
Ray Nash: I think, going right into that common ground, “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” “Where you from?” and “What do you like to do in your free time?” Those are great rapport building questions and you can get down to the nitty-gritty really quick.
There’s a little catchphrase that we use to accelerate the rapport building process, like if I was to ask you, “What do you like to do in your free time?” and you said, “I’d like to golf.” “Really? My dad loved to golf, that was his favorite activity. I remember when I was a kid, he’s taken me on the golf course, then I’d try to hit the ball around, I really miss those days and I’d like to get back into it again. How many times a week do you go golfing?” And you use that ask-follow up-offer technique that we talked about earlier. You just do it three or four times and you can build rapport very quickly. You put them at ease, you make them feel comfortable with you, you find that common ground, if you have time, maybe you find that uncommon ground, but the common ground, showing genuine interest, being relaxed, being personable, being talkative, being non-judgmental, this is a major concern of guilty and innocent people. They think they’re being judged when they walk into an interview and you want to be sure you come across as being non-judgmental, you’re in control, your micro-expressions, you can’t show your surprise, or disgust, or contempt no matter how disgusting or revolting the person in front of you might be. If you can’t do that, you need to get somebody else to do the interview.
Audience Question: Does your inductive interviewing system allow investigators to do their job without traumatizing or retraumatizing victims or witnesses?
Ray Nash: We’re talking about interviewing subjects and people that might be accused of a crime but that’s a great point because we need to apply the same principles to victims and witnesses.
Victims and witnesses can be deceptive too and victims and witnesses can often have ulterior motives and things of that nature. So, we need to be sensitive to indicators of deception no matter who we’re dealing with but the entire system is set-up to be non-confrontational, non-threatening, non-coercive.
Now, there are times later on in the interview when you got to the final stages of the induction and you are running into a roadblock, where we might become a little bit more confrontational, then we haven’t been to that point. That would only come toward the very end of the interview when you’re encountering a roadblock and you’re trying to breach that roadblock. Try to really be careful because if you put too much pressure on them and they’ll shut down. This is true of victims and witnesses as well, so you treat people with respect. Respect means you treat them with respect as an individual, as a human being, regardless of what they might have or not have done. You try to restrict your own biases from getting in the way. Incidentally, we didn’t have time to cover this but that’s what the “inductive interview” means, that’s what the word “inductive” means.
There are two types of research. There’s a deductive approach to research and there’s an inductive approach to research. The deductive approach is you come up with a hypothesis, it’s like the scientific method. You come up with a hypothesis, you design an experiment, you run the experiment, and you analyze the results. You either confirm or disprove your hypothesis, then you revise it and you repeat the process, that’s the scientific method, it’s deductive in nature. The inductive research method is, “Let’s gather the data first and let’s see how the data, let’s see what picture the data paints, let’s follow the evidence.” It’s an evidentiary approach. That’s how we ought to be going into an inductive interview.
If you go in already have in your mind made up that this person is guilty or this victim is legitimate or whatever, then you’re clouding your perception with your own biases. You want to guard against that as a forensic crime scene analyst. You can’t go into that crime scene with your mind already made up on how the crime is committed. You need to gather all the evidence and see where the evidence leads you.
Now, there is a time and place for deductive reasoning and inductive investigations in law enforcement. If you’re trying to eliminate suspects if you’re trying to say who has the motive to commit the crime, who had the opportunity to commit the crime. That’s deductive reasoning when you’re eliminating suspects, that’s fine. But when you go to the interview room or we go face-to-face, wherever it may occur, we don’t want those biases to get in the way. So, the inductive interview system is designed very much with that in mind. Let’s protect the dignity of everybody that we’re interviewing and I’ll say, “let’s create an environment where they’re going to feel comfortable talking, telling us the truth.” You do that by doing your preparation first, building your rapport, getting that free narrative, evaluating for deception, clarifying their statements, filling in the gaps, and then using these inductive techniques, which I can’t wait to get to those in Part 2. So if you like what you’re hearing today, come back for Part 2, get into some of the actual induction techniques like creating divergences, rationalizations minimizations, these presumptive and enticement questions that I mentioned in response to the question we had earlier about how do you craft the questions. We’ll into some of those things.