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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

March 27, 2012
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John Bowden On Language, Communication, and Leadership
with John Bowden

Behavioral analysis in the interrogation room

If you fall into the mindless routine of following the “enumerated process” you will miss the subtle hints that take you to the confession

Encarta Dictionary defines behavior as, “The way something behaves.”  Analysis is defined as, “The examination of something in detail in order to understand it better or draw conclusions from it.” Behavioral analysis is simply the observation of behavior and then analyzing that behavior to determine its meaning.  In the process of observing behavior we make the following assumption.  In living organisms there is a “cause” which is the impetus of the “behavior” — that behavior has a “purpose or meaning.” 

In observing this process, we try to determine the connection from “cause” to “behavior” to “purpose or meaning.”  The cause can be initiated either internally or externally.  Hunger would be an internal cause.  This would cause the behavior of seeking food.  The purpose of the behavior is to obtain food for consumption.  An external cause would be a speeding car approaching a person in a cross walk.  The behavior would be to move out of the way.  The purpose would be for survival.  Knowing the cause of the behavior can reveal the internal, mental processing of the subject.  For instance, you inform a subject that you know they are the one that committed the offense.  When we say this, the subject jumps from the seat of the chair and immediately sits back down. That behavior is caused by the adrenaline rush caused by shock of the accusation. The meaning of the behavior helps to confirm that this subject is the perpetrator. 

Behavioral Analysis gives us the “cause” of the “behavior” as well as the “purpose” or the “meaning.”  Knowing the cause and the meaning can guide our investigation.

Throughout history researchers have studied behavior trying to analyze the cause and effect of human behavior.  It has been studied by researchers in psychology, sociology, criminology, anthropology, management and other fields of study. Behavioral Analysis is used in a variety of occupations.  The business community uses behavioral analysis in the screening of new employees.  They ask business related questions and analyze the responses of the potential employees.  It is used by promotion boards to determine the best candidate for advancement.  Psychologists and psychiatrists use it in the treatment of their patients.  The FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit uses it to evaluate the behavior of psychopathic and sociopathic criminals to determine their personal characteristics to aid in their identification and capture. 

Coordinated Behavioral Response
In interviews and interrogations the classic use of behavioral analysis is to determine the truth or deception of a subject’s responses.  If a person is telling the truth they did not commit the offense.  If they are deceptive they are the perpetrator, had a part in the offense or know the perpetrator.  This is a valuable tool in the arsenal of the investigator — it is only one of many uses of behavioral analysis.  The analysis of a person’s behavior tells us more than if they are guilty or innocent. A subject’s behavior informs us of the subject’s state of mind — do they like or dislike us — do they like or dislike other people in the case: are they holding back — are they ready to confess — are they trying to make an admission — are they ready to or want to leave — as well as other states of mind.  This knowledge of their state of mind can guide us in our response to their behavior.  Our response is specifically calculated to match up with the subject’s mental state in order to obtain the information about the case leading to its resolution.  This response is called a Coordinated Behavioral Response.

In the interview and interrogation process we are taught to start at the interview of the victim and progress to the confession.  The interview or the interrogation is not a set of defined steps you must follow.  There are critical stages you should recognize and respond to in a particular fashion.  However, they do not always occur in a particular order.  The subject of “Interviews and Interrogations” is often taught as an “enumerated process”, usually beginning with the interview and progressing to the confession.  Many texts and articles on interviews and interrogations have been written about these ordered processes, putting them in steps, stages, phases, segments, levels, parts, periods, chapters, divisions or ordered tasks. 

In fact, this type of instruction will start off with an introduction stating the number of steps in the process.  For example: “The interview and interrogation process consists of (5, 7, 9, 11 or whatever number of steps).” 

This is usually followed by giving each step a name.  The instruction will start at step 1 and take you through the ordered process.  In her research, Ellen Langer has shown the learner will subconsciously adhere to this proscribed, ordered list, not recognizing that any of these stages can occur at any time during the interview or interrogation. This learned process hinders the investigator’s ability to adapt to irregularities or variances in the interview process. The investigator should recognize there is not one ordered process to be followed — instead, there is a myriad of potential possibilities that might occur. The investigator must be prepared to respond appropriately to the behavior that is presented by the subject. The investigator does not try to force an “enumerated process” but instead responds with a “Coordinated Behavioral Response.”

The “Coordinated Behavioral Response” is the recognition of the subject’s behavior and then responding in a fashion designed to move the investigation to its resolution, a confession.  The response is one that is correct for the behavior that is observed.  The investigator is always working to move the subject to the confession.  However, the investigator must respond correctly to the subject’s behavior. 

For instance, you sit down to interview a subject in a theft case.  The status of the subject is as of yet undetermined. The subject may be a witness, an uninvolved employee or the perpetrator of the theft. Initially you may be prepared to conduct an exploratory interview to determine the subject’s possible involvement. When you introduce yourself, the person goes into the confession position and starts crying. Using the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” you would recognize this and respond accordingly, without any intervening steps.  Suppose the same person made a small admission, apologizing for the missing money.  Again, using the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” you would respond to the admission.  Perhaps during the initial interview the person behaves erratically, displaying the mannerisms that indicate deception.  Using the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” you would respond by moving into a subject identification interview that will reveal the subject is lying and is the perpetrator.  From there you may move to the interrogation or return after interviewing other subjects associated with the case. 

In another scenario, you enter the room and introduce yourself.  You explain to the subject why they are there and you would like to chat with them about what happened.  As the conversation begins, the subject starts to make excuses for what has happened, emphasizing it could happen to anyone.  You recognize this person has moved into the beginning of the interrogation phase.  The difference to the normal model is that the subject is introducing the interrogation strategy, as opposed to you introducing it.  Using the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” you should recognize the beginning of the interrogation strategy, regardless of who started it.  You would respond appropriately, agreeing with the subject that these things happen, taking their side and continuing on with the strategy the subject has selected.  This would naturally lead to an admission and on to confession — or it may go immediately to the confession. 

Be Vigilant for Subtle Signals
In the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” process you respond according to the stage the subject has presented.  The important point to remember is to avoid being trapped in a mindless process where you first do “A,” then “B,” then “C,” and so on.  If you fall into the mindless routine of following the “enumerated process” you will miss the subtle hints that take you to the confession.  An episode of COPS I once saw offers an example for consideration.  An undercover drug squad move in and serve a search warrant on group of drug dealers in a house.  The search warrant was for a large cache of drugs being stored in the house.  The team moved in with cool precision.  It was early in the morning and all of the occupants of the house were asleep — some in the bedroom and others in the living room. 

The ring leader of the group was a woman I will call “Maggie.”  After the team entered and secured the scene, they moved everyone to the living room.  As they searched they were able to only find a small amount of drugs, not near the amount they were looking for.  While the team was searching the team leader was talking to the subjects in the living room, particularly to Maggie.  She claimed to have no knowledge of any drugs.  The team leader refused to believe her and began to accuse her, telling her he knew she was dealing, he knew she had a “bunch” of drugs hidden in the house.  He went on to state she could not fool him — he knew what was going on.  Maggie was standing handcuffed in the living room. 

The team leader was pacing back and forth as he ranted not closely watching Maggie.  As he continued to speak and accuse Maggie, she gave a big sigh, her face went to a sad expression, and her head dropped forward.  Her shoulders drooped and she began to nod her head in agreement to what the team leader was saying.  He continued on, not picking up on her confession position and expression of submission.  As he continued, Maggie straightened up, the sad expression gone. 

The team arrested Maggie and the other members of the group for drug possession and a number of other charges they had already established in previous buys.  The big cache was never found. In the post interview on camera the team leader was disappointed he did not get the large amount of drugs he had hoped for, but considered it a success because of the arrests that were made.  I find this to be an example of mindless procedure on the part of the team leader.  He was not in an interrogation room — he had not established the interrogation process and therefore missed the confession position of Maggie.  Had he been attuned to her behavior and responded to her with a “Coordinated Behavioral Response,” I feel he could have obtained a confession from Maggie and possibly the location of the drugs. 

As you speak to the subject, monitor the subject’s behavior, determine their stage in the process and respond with the appropriate “Coordinated Behavioral Response.”  Remember, “The correct behavioral response will cause the subject’s poor tortured soul to pour out on the table in front of you.”

My new book “Interview to Confession, The Gentle Art of Interrogation” presents the methods to establish a rapport and guide the person to a confession.  It presents a new concept called the “Coordinated Behavioral Response,” a method that gets away from the standard stepped investigative process currently taught and used today.  The “Coordinated Behavioral Response” is an investigative philosophy where the investigator responds appropriately to the behavior exhibited by the subject, whether they are a victim, witness or suspect, to gather information and solve a case.
 


About the author

John Bowden is the founder and director of Applied Police Training and Certification (APTAC). John retired from the Orlando Police Department as a Master Police Officer In 1994. His career spans a period of 21 years in law enforcement overlapping 25 years of law enforcement instruction. His total of more than 37 years of experience includes all aspects of law enforcement to include: uniform crime scene technician, patrol operations, investigations, undercover operations, planning and research for departmental development, academy coordinator, field training officer, and field training supervisor. As the director of APTAC, John is responsible for coordinating operations and conducting training for law enforcement organizations across the United States. APTAC clients include law enforcement agencies, state police academies, sheriff departments, correctional institutions, military law enforcement, as well as colleges and universities across the United States. John has written numerous books, including Report Writing for Law Enforcement & Corrections, Management Techniques for Criminal Justice, Today's Field Training Officer, and others. Contact John Bowden





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