Webinar presenter Sheriff Ray Nash (ret) answered a number of your questions after his presentation, “Part 2: Introduction to the Induction Interview System.” Here are a few of his responses.
Audience Question: What should an officer look for when they are questioning a motorist violator if they are concerned about weapons or guns etc.? Is there a recommended way for an officer to start building rapport right there at that road site? In terms of the motorists, what are the key indicators and behaviors we should be looking for given the setting?
That’s a fantastic question. I think the road side stops, traffic stops, are an overlooked opportunity to do a lot of things. They are an overlooked opportunity to build public support because we are used to seeing it as a negative encounter from the standpoint of the driver. If a savvy officer makes a traffic stop, even if they ended up giving a ticket or a citation, a lot of times that is a great opportunity to build a relationship with a community member and give them a positive interaction with law enforcement. Even though they may not be happy about the ticket, they’re happy that you treated them with respect and dignity, that type of thing.
Secondarily, the point of the question is how do we do it from a patrol officer perspective. The principles are going to be the same. On the side of the roadway, you’ve got 18-wheelers blowing past you, you are trying to stay safe from the traffic. You realize you can’t stay out there all day long and have a nice conversation to build rapport. You’re going to have to do it very very quickly. Some of the things you might have in your toolbox, or your tackle box as we like to call it, like if you’re going fishing and throwing out bait. Some of the lures you might have in your tackle box is to just make some comment about the vehicle, make some comment about where they’re going. What kind of work do you do? Really? My father-in-law is in that kind of work. I always thought it would be interesting to have a car like this, what’s the gas mileage? You just take it totally off topic. It has nothing to do with the stop itself. You try to just build rapport conversationally. A lot of these criminal interdiction teams have mastered this technique. If you go to the National Criminal Enforcement Association – NCEA some of my guys that worked for me when I was a sheriff founded that organization and they developed a lot of these techniques out in the field that are very helpful even for the average patrol officer that might not be doing criminal interdiction. Every stop you should have your radar up, your antenna up, for any indicators that there is something more going on here than just a traffic stop.
So you build rapport very quickly and then maybe you start throwing out some questions. Start getting indicators of deception, a lot of those ‘I don’t knows’, ‘I’m not sures’. You might realize I am onto something more than meets the eye. That’s when you dig down a little bit deeper. If you have two people in the car, so there’s a passenger, and you can do it safely, separate the driver from the passenger. Another officer’s kind of helpful in this kind of scenario and question them separately. You question them about things that has absolutely nothing to do with the stop itself. If you start getting differences, a different account from the two individuals over the extraneous details that they should know the answer to. “Where are you all coming from?” “We’re driving down from New York.” “Really? That’s a pretty long drive. Did you stop along the way to eat lunch?” “Yeah, we stopped.” “Where did you stop at?” “We stopped at McDonald’s.” “What city was that in? What did you order? What did your friend order?” If they really did, in fact, stop at McDonald’s they would know the answers to these questions. They might have their big story rehearsed but they don’t have the details rehearsed. So when you ask the other person these questions, they are going to blow it because they stopped at Hardee’s or whatever. That’s one technique that you can use. I think being sensitive to the principles that we discussed here will give you a leg up in any kind of a traffic stop. It’s not a magical question to ask or something. Just be sensitive for these indicators. It’s non-committal qualifiers, a lot of the verbal and non-verbal leakages that you might see. That’s going to help you be a better patrol officer.
Audience Question: When should we transition a field interview to a more formal setting like at the station?
Ray Nash: It will depend on a lot of factors obviously. It depends on the nature of the offense. The interview room at the station is a coercive environment in the best circumstances. There’re also some constitutional issues that factor in when you move somebody from a Terry stop, a field interview scenario, a temporary detention, and you move them into a more controlled environment like a police station.
The way you make that transition is going to have a huge impact not only on how you conduct the interview but whether or not there’s going to be constitutional issues that have been raised under Miranda. So you got to be more careful about the terminology that you use. An example is you say, “I need you to come down to the station so we can talk about this further.” If that gets before a judge, there is a very strong likelihood that they are going to rule that this was an overally coercive environment and that the person did not realize that they were free to leave, they did not realize that it was a voluntary scenario. Therefore, Miranda is going to attach. It’s OK if Miranda attaches as long as you cover the Miranda warnings.
But if you blew it and you didn’t cover the Miranda warning because in your mind this is a voluntarily coming down to the station then you are going to have constitutional issues. We see this happen a lot. You need to ask, phrase it like this, “Would you mind coming down to the station so we can talk about this a little bit further?” That is a less coercive phrase to use and much more likely to have that one upheld by a court. A lot of this has to do with jurisdiction and differences and every court and circuit is different. Basing those comments on what the US Supreme court has said, that cover all of this obviously. If you have state and local jurisdictions that differ, have appellate circuits that differ. You need to know what court law is, case law in your particular jurisdiction. Those some of you that things that they concern about.
Most interviews don’t occur inside the police station. Most interviews occur out in the field somewhere. You’re on the side of the road, you’re at a traffic stop. We had a wildlife officer in our last class who said most his interviews occur over the back of a pickup truck, while out in the woods somewhere. Or maybe it’s inside someone’s living room. There are places where you don’t have the ability to control the environment. So you need to know how to conduct these interviews in places other than the interview room at the station.
Audience Question: What are the best techniques for a probation officer to be able to gain an accurate sexual history for a sex offender on supervision?
Ray Nash: Yeah, the questions I don’t think are as important as the answers. I think and I really I appreciate that question because we deal with a lot of probation agents because they have all these sex offenders in the community. If the average person knew how many are out there on probation they would have a heart attack. There’s a lot of them out there obviously. These are potentially dangerous individuals that have to be monitored very closely and probation agents in particular need to be trained and sensitive to these different types of indicators when they ask these questions.
A great one is a presumptive question is like “How many times have you done such and such since the last time that we talked?” It might be something that is prohibited in the terms and conditions of their probation. So you might say “How many times have you watched pornography since we last talked?” And they give you a number and you know that they reoffended so that’s a presumptive question. “How many times have you had alcohol since the last time since the last time we met?” “How many times have you gone to someplace where you weren’t supposed to go?” “How many times have you been secretly alone with a child?” “How many times have you deliberately engaged in frottage where you’re accidentally on purpose rubbing up against another person for sexual gratification?” You can ask these presumptive questions. They are very effective with sex offenders.
The guilt transfer technique is very effective with sex offenders. “I’m sure she was coming in on you. I’m sure this wasn’t her first rodeo. You know how promiscuous these kids are nowadays.” It’s crazy that the victim in question could be a six-year-old. They’re not coming on to anybody, but you throw it out there because in the mind of the offender they were, they’re helping the victim. As bizarre as that sounds in many cases. “It’s a good thing that you did this because this is somebody that loves a child and teach her about the birds and bees. It’d be terrible if they learn them on some school playground or out behind the school bleachers.” As terrible as that sounds and as repulsive as that idea for us as law-abiding members of the law enforcement community to think about, we’re getting into the head of the offender. We’re asking these questions and using these induction techniques in a way that gets them to bite on the bait. Once they have bitten, I can now begin to reel them in and get, hopefully, a full disclosure.
Here’s the thing for Probation agents out there, you can’t show surprise, you can’t show disgust, you can’t show, “Well, I’m going to violate you over that.” “If you had one beer, I’m going to violate you.” Don’t come across in a threatening coercive way. Make it seem like everybody is drinking beer while on probation. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to violate you for it but I’m creating an environment where it sounds like everybody’s done it so what’s the big deal if you have a beer? What’s the big deal that you are watching porn? If they are watching porn, I want to know what kind of porn they are watching. If they are a child porn offender this is particularly important to me. I now want to know if they are alone with a child, who’s underage because I want to know if they are secretly starting the grooming process. Might even be, this might be repulsive to a lot of our audience out there but it’s just the world we all live in, if I’m the probation agent, I’m going to ask them some of the fantasies that they have when they masturbate. I’m going to ask what are some of the tools that they might be using, what are they looking at? What are they thinking about? I’m trying to get into their head a little bit and I’m just trying to make it sound like it’s a normal everyday thing to have these fantasies. That’s what worked for one offender that I showed you earlier. Ask the questions that was being asked about the fantasies. We got all of the sorts of disclosure. Probation is a particularly tough job and I’m glad you tuned in on the webinar. I encourage you to take a look at some of the training opportunities that are out there to really refine your skills. Y’all have a huge public safety responsibility here to keep these people from reoffending in your neighborhoods.