Norway Keynote 2010. Professor Ray Bull University of Leicester . 2 Principles of Investigative Interviewing.
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Professor Ray Bull
University of Leicester
Many of you will be aware that in England and Wales in 1992 the ‘Steering Group On Investigative Interviewing’ (set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office – which was the relevant government ministry) approved for the first time a number of “Principles of Investigative Interviewing” which included
(For more on the early evolution of the notion of ‘investigative interviewing’ see Williamson, 1993; the ‘Preface’ in Bull, Valentine, and Williamson, 2009.)
This “Steering Group” largely involved experienced police officers who took advice from a variety of sources, including the relevant psychological literature and psychologists.
Also in 1992
In 2002 Holmes (formerly of the Miami Police Department) published a book entitled Criminal interrogation: A modern format for interrogating suspectsin which he stated (p.x) that “When you finish reading this book, I hope you have one predominate thought, ‘You don’t obtain confessions by asking the suspect questions. You have to convince a suspect to confess by the use of persuasive interrogational arguments’”.
With regard to questioning, Holmes stated that “The literature is devoid of information on how to question. Oddly enough, I don’t even know of a law school that teaches the act of cross-examination” (p.15).
Whereas this may be an accurate account of Holmes’ knowledge, it is not a valid account of the literature on questioning available world-wide. Holmes continued that “The primary purpose of questioning is to determine that the transition to accusatory interrogation should be made” (p.16).
Once a suspect has confessed Holmes (2002) recommended that a “formal confession should be taken without delay while a suspect is in a cooperative mood” (p.115).
He also recommended that this post-interrogation/interview formal confession be audio or video recorded, even though he noted that “There is, however, one major drawback ….. In court, the investigator is invariably asked ….. ‘Why didn’t you record the entire interview of the defendant?’ ”.
He stated that “I never felt entirely comfortable answering that question. I never said it, but I often wanted to say ‘I didn’t want to give you a sword you could stick in me’ ” (p.116).
Fairly recently in 2005 in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin an instructor (Boetig) in the Law Enforcement Communication Unit at the FBI contended that “…interrogations are less of a conversation than a monologue by investigators in which they provide suspects with acceptable reasons to confess” (p.13/14).
These reasons were said to be of one of three types – rationalisation, projection of blame, and minimisation,
the first of which “offers suspects the opportunity to make the crimes appear soundly acceptable”; in relation to this Boetig stated that “Investigators may rationalise a crime merely by explaining to the suspect that the deviant act was logical behaviour that anyone in his position would have done …” (p.15).
the second “distances suspects from appearing solely responsible”; an example of projection could involve putting “… blame on the people that taught them to be criminals, such as siblings, peers, parents, and fellow inmates” (p.18).
and the third “produces less guilt or shame for the suspect” (p.14); Boetig suggested that an example of minimisation could involve “… an explanation of his genetic predispositions to deviance….” (p.16).
In 2010 Chris Meissner and colleagues noted that in the USA “ …interrogative methods currently available to law enforcement have no scientific foundation but rather have been offered (or better, sold) by former investigators who purport that the validity of those techniques is based on their success…” (Meissner, Russano, & Narchet, 2010, p. 122-123).
Neither of the books that I have so far mentioned seemed to have benefitted from research on the views of suspects/offenders concerning how they were interviewed.
Holmberg and Christianson’s (2002) ground-breaking research study (also see Deslauriers-Varin & St-Yves,2009; Kebbell, Alison & Hurren, 2008; St-Yves & Deslauriers-Varin, 2006) emphasised that suspects/offenders interviewed in a dominant, coercive way may be lees likely to confess than those interviewed in a humane way.
In 2005 O’Connor and Carson (both highly experienced professional interviewers) found that the predominant reason the confessors (to child molestation) gave for why they confessed was the respect shown to them by the interviewers.
Nearly twenty five years ago Gudjonsson and Clark’s new (1986) theory focussed on three main factors that are likely to influence suspects’ coping in police interviews.
The resultant coping strategy would affect whether suspects became suggestible or resistant. If interviewers provided ‘negative feedback’ some suspects will respond to this with ‘resistance’. Such resistance may also arise in suspects who are/become suspicious of the interviewers’ intentions. (Also see Gudjonsson, 2006.)
One of the most important studies ever published concerning what actually happens when the police interview suspects is by Leo (1996). This seminal study, conducted in the USA, is deserving of wider and deeper attention around the world than it has heretofore received.
Leo noted that the Court (Justice Earl Warren) in Miranda V Arizona (1966) commented on the absence of first-hand knowledge of what actually takes place during police interviews with suspects and that it called for research on this topic. In the ensuing thirty years little such research was conducted.
Leo’s own study was based on his nine months of ‘fieldwork’ with the Criminal Investigation Division of a large, urban police department (thought by many, Leo reports, to be one of the leading police forces in the USA). He sat in on 122 interviews (involving 45 detectives) and he also watched video recordings of a further 60 interviews conducted by two other police organisations.
In his 1996 publication Leo demonstrated good awareness of the possible influence his presence had on the 122 live interviews and he was able to compare these with the 60 recorded interviews (where he, of course, was not present). He noted that he tended to be excluded from the more serious cases, though this was not always so.
Leo coded each of the interviews for 25 potential tactics/techniques which he derived from those (i) advocated in police manuals, (ii) taught on training courses, and (iii) used in popular culture.
Leo found that
the detectives usually began by confronting the suspects with evidence suggesting guilt, either real/true evidence (85% of interrogations) or false evidence(30%);
then the detectives attempted (in 43%) to undermine the suspects’ denials.
Leo also noted that the detectives
Leo defined an interrogation as ‘successful’ if the suspect provided during it some incriminating information. (Around two thirds met this definition.)
The only factors that he found to be associated with whether an interrogation involved some such success were (i) its length and (ii) the number of tactics used.
Significant associations between some of the tactics and the suspect providing incriminating information were found as follows:
Other outstanding studies of actual police interviews in North America include Feld (2006) and King and Snook (2009).
More recent information concerning USA police use of techniques while interviewing suspects comes from a survey of interviewing/interrogating officers’ (Reppucci, Meyer, & Kostelnik, 2010). The percentages of respondents who endorsed various techniques included
For more surveys of investigating officers’ views see (for North America) Kassin, et al. (2007); (for Finland) Hakkanen, Ask, Kebbell, Alison, and Granhag (2009); (for Australia) Alison and Howard (2005); (for England ) Soukara, Bull, and Vrij (2002); (for India) Alison, Sarangi, and Wright (2008); (for Hong Kong) Alison, Kebbell, and Leung (2008).
An experienced investigator in the USA who ‘foresaw’ (but did not mention) the possibility that a PEACE-like approach may be useful in the USA was Yeschke.
In the second edition of his The art of investigative interviewing (2003) this former FBI special agent with more than 30 years of relevant experience presented what the second part of his book’s title refers to as A human approach to testimonial evidence.
Yeschke stated that “Criminal investigations must be conducted in a professional atmosphere in which no one tampers with evidence and no one physically or psychologically compels an innocent person to confess” (p.7 - but no mention here of unduly compelling a guilty person to confess).
Yeschkenoted that “The tactics suggested in this book ….are ethical” (p.12) and that “I consider the following behaviours to be unethical:
Yeschke stated that “These and similar tactics have been used in the past … It is time for a change “ (p.12).
He emphasised the importance of “actively listening” (p.21),
that “An interview is more of a marathon than a sprint” (p.22),
that “The more effective you are in collecting testimonial evidence in an interview, the more proficient you will be as an investigator” (p.36),
and that “… interviews necessarily take place to uncover the truth …” (p.41).
In a 2010 book chapter we concluded that our “Study 1 found that the views of experienced interviewers/detectives in England appeared to be in line with the new approach (referred to as investigative interviewing) and its evolving training program (called PEACE).
One major aim of Studies 2 and 3 was to determine if actual police interviewing of suspects was in line with the philosophy behind investigative interviewing. These two studies found this to be the case to a considerable extent (e.g., the absence of oppressive coercive tactics), which clearly suggests that the PEACE approach can be accepted and employed by police officers.” (Bull & Soukara, 2010).
However, our studies also found that some inappropriate tactics were used in a considerable number of interviews (such as leading questions, repeating the same questions, positive confrontation), though Clarke, Milne, and Bull (in revision) found fewer leading questions used in police interviews with suspects.
Our studies 3 and 4 also had the major aim of trying to determine if interviewer use of tactics/skills bore any relationship to the suspect confessing.
Contrary to what the limited previous research had found (for example, Baldwin, 1993), most of the suspects who confessed did not do so very early on. This allowed, almost for the first time, examination of whether how the interviewer behaves does influence confessing (as suggested by convicted persons in studies by Holmberg & Christiansson, 2002; Kebbel & Hurren, 2006).
We found that the interviewers employed non-coercive techniques and that the PEACE/investigative interviewing approach nevertheless resulted in confessions.
We concluded that “Overall, this chapter demonstrates that when a sufficiently good relationship can be established (taking many years), enlightened police officers/police organizations are sometimes willing to allow comprehensive scrutiny of their interviewing performance by psychologists.
Perhaps they had the confidence to do this because a national policy plus a comprehensive training program (i.e. PEACE) had been in place for several years and they therefore thought that the interviews in their fairly large police force would be, at least, of reasonable standard. If so, they were correct.”
Nevertheless, it is important to note what the American psychologist DeClue said in his extensive commentary on police interviews with suspects - “ … law enforcement officers are likely to see psychologists as being the enemy when the law enforcement officers have not done their jobs well” (2005, p. 351).
In concluding our 2010 chapter we stated that “The tactics of greatest concern to some eminent psychologists (e.g., Gudjonsson, 2003) were very rarely present, though some that are likely to be unreliable (e.g., leading questions) were often used—perhaps due to their probable high frequency in everyday life.
Thus, the new research presented in this chapter could be taken to suggest that police organisations around the world should actively consider adopting the PEACE approach and associated training programs.”
In the “Conclusion” chapter of their 2010 edited volume Chris Meissner and Dan Lassiter said that “One alternative…” to “…psychologically coercive interrogative methods…” is “…the PEACE approach to investigative interviewing…used in Great Britain…” (Meissner & Lassiter, 2010, p. 229).
In the “Afterword” chapter Saul Kassin stated that “Although more systematic research is needed, it is clear that investigative interviewing offers a potentially effective alternative to the classic American interrogation” (p. 235).
In 2010 Chris Meissner and colleagues reminded us that “The interrogation room presents a challenge to laboratory researchers who attempt to recreate the elements of police interrogation in a controlled environment.” (Meissner, et al., 2010, p. 118).
From their recent laboratory based research in which “The inquisitorial approach used was modeled after the approach advocated in Great Britain”, they concluded that “ The results of both studies demonstrated a significant advantage in using inquisitorial methods over that of accusatorial approaches” (p. 122). (Also see Vrij, Mann, and Fisher, 2006.)
A few months ago in Canada Snook, Eastwood, Stinson, Tedeschini, and House (2010) - in a journal article co-authored by three police officers and two academics - stated that “…interviewing practices in Canada require substantive reform” (p. 215).
They recommended adoption of
Snook et al. in describing the PEACE approach said that “By obtaining an initial free narrative and using evidence-based challenges – that is, an interviewee’s failure to respond truthfully to evidence (e.g., DNA, CCTV recordings) that contradicts his or her account – can illustrate guilt regardless of whether the interviewee verbalizes that guilt. PEACE therefore, allows the truth to be revealed without the use of manipulative and coercive tactics and the risk of false confessions” (p. 223).
[Hershkowitz, Horowitz, Lamb, Orbach, and Sternberg (2004) found an association between (youhful) suspects admitting to child abuse in interviews and their responsiveness to free recall prompts.]
Some countries have already decided to adopt the PEACE approach. These include New Zealand, which commissioned a world-wide review of the relevant literature and current police practices (Schollum,2005).
In Norway in 2002 a national investigative interviewing training course was commissioned. This ‘KREATIV’ approach/model was “heavily influenced by the British PEACE course” (Fahsing & Rachlew, 2009, p. 42) and the 2006 feedback from officers who were trained in this model was very positive.
In the conclusion of his in-depth, overview chapter Gudjonsson (2006) stated that “Usually, suspects confess for a combination of reasons, but perception of the strength of evidence is the single most important reason. This has important implications for investigators” (p. 143). (Also see Moston, Stephenson, and Williamson, 1992.)
The various ways that the ‘evidence’ can be presented to suspects in investigative interviews (i.e. that follow the PEACE approach) is now being studied experimentally (i.e. using good ‘scientific’ methodology).
Later in this conference my colleague Dr. Coral Dando will be presenting a paper concerned with our ongoing research on this very point. (Also see Sellers and Kebbell, 2009; van der Sleen, 2009.)
Our research examines the effectiveness of the ‘GRIMACE’ approach which involves Gathering Reliable Information, then Motivating an Account, then Challenging this Effectively.
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