Friday, December 9, 2011

Criminal Psychology and Interrogation Techniques

I have been acting dean at my high school for the past few days. It has been a good experience. Psychology is the key ~ getting into the brain is very important.

Some links i have found helpful.

1. A broad definition of criminal psychology.

Criminal psychology is the study of the wills, thoughts, intentions and reactions of criminals. It is related to the field ofcriminal anthropology. The study goes deeply into what makes someone commit crime, but also the reactions after the crime, on the run or in court. Criminal psychologists are often called up as witnesses in court cases to help the jury understand the mind of the criminal. Some types of Psychiatry also deal with aspects of criminal behavior.

Main article: Offender Profiling

A major part of Criminal psychology, known as offender profiling, began in the 1940s when the United States Office of Strategic Services asked William L. Langer's brother Walter C. Langer, a well renowned psychiatrist, to draw up a profile of Adolf Hitler. After the Second World War British psychologist Lionel Haward, while working for the Royal Air Force police, drew up a list of characteristics which high-ranking Nazi war criminals might display, to be able to spot them amongst ordinary captured soldiers and airmen.

In the 1950s, US psychiatrist James A. Brussel drew up what turned to be an uncannily accurate profile of a bomber who had been terrorizing New York.

The fastest development occurred when the FBI opened its training academy, the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), inQuantico, Virginia. It led to the establishment of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime and the violent criminal apprehension program. The idea was to have a system which could pick up links between unsolved major crimes.

In the United Kingdom, Professor David Canter was a pioneer helping to guide police detectives from the mid-1980s to an offender who had carried out a series of serious attacks, but Canter saw the limitations of "offender profiling" - in particular, the subjective, personal opinion of a psychologist. He and a colleague coined the term investigative psychology and began trying to approach the subject from what they saw as a more scientific point of view.

2. Criminal interrogation


The three major aspects of criminal investigation are (1) to identify the criminal, (2) to locate and apprehend

him (3) and to prove his guilt in the court. During the course of investigation an investigator depends on three

major tools available to him which are instrumentation, information and, interview and interrogation.

Instrumentation helps him to identify or eliminate a suspect by the use of scientific technology thereby

analyzing the collected physical evidences whereas the information is transformed into intelligence to

identify, locate and apprehend him. But the significance of interview and interrogation cannot be discarded as

it plays major role in investigation whenever there is little or no physical evidence.

The difference between interview and interrogation is that an interview is conducted in a cordial atmosphere

where a witness is more comfortable physically and psychologically. On the other hand, whenever a person is

questioned in an uncomfortable atmosphere (interrogation room) where he is under the psychological

pressure, it is an interrogation. Interrogator, in this case, has more psychological advantage than his suspect.

Interrogation is a kind of psychological warfare between interrogator and suspect. Only when an interrogator

overpowers a suspect psychologically, he gets a confession or the fact of a case which is not possible


Interrogation is an art. You can master it through your study and experience. A good investigator is not

necessarily a good interrogator. To be a good interrogator you need to be a good actor and must have an

insight of human psychology. You should be able to act according to age, profession and intellect of the

individual suspect because a suspect could be a lawyer, doctor, scientist, professor, manager or an unskilled

laborer and, could be a child, teenager, adult and senior.

Prerequisites of an interrogation:

Before conducting interrogation an interrogator should have the information about:


(i) Name, age, profession, occupation

(ii) Social and financial situation

(iii) Criminal history

(iv) Relation with the victim if any


(i) Name, age, profession, occupation

(ii) Social and financial situation

(iii) Criminal history if any

Scene of crime:

(i) Time and place of occurrence

(ii) Modus operandi

(iii) Physical evidence collected

(iv) Information collected


Place of Interrogation:

(i) At the spot when a suspect is apprehended at the scene of crime

(ii) In an interrogation room where the interrogator has more psychological advantage.

1Time of Interrogation:

(i) As soon as the suspect is apprehended and information collected

You should always remember that a suspect is innocent and not a criminal unless his guilt is proved in


• Don't ever use third degree method.

• Always maintain courtesy.

• Be a good listener.

Control your anger because in anger you loose reasoning and the judgment made without reasoning is

mostly incorrect.

• Never be in hurry to finish the interrogation.

Method of Interrogation

We can classify criminals into two major categories:

• emotional offender

• non−emotional offender

The purpose of classification is to vary your approach and methods during the interrogation of a suspect.

Interrogation of emotional offender:

Interrogation of an emotional offender is much easier than non−emotional offender.

1) An emotional offender is usually a first time offender and can be broken down easily when played with his

emotion, ie, love, hatred, anger, frustration etc.

i) By showing sympathy towards him.

ii) By telling him that anybody could do what he has done in the similar situation.

iii) Blaming the society for his action.

iv) Being friendly with him and offering him coke or cigarettes, which an offender never expects from a

police officer.

v) Observe his physical reaction to the crime related and non−related questions. When someone is lying he

will be under tension. The anti−diuretic bio−chemical substance released by his body leads to the dryness of

his mouth and lips. Again in tension he may be tapping his foot, playing with his fingers, looking blankly

somewhere else.

2) Emotional offender easily come clean when confronted by the evidence.

Interrogation of non−emotional offender:

Non−emot iona l of f ende r s a r e ha rdened c r imina l s . They a r e prof e s s iona l who have ga ined expe r i enc e

committing series of crime and either subsequently have evaded the apprehension or served many jail terms.

They don't like to talk much or at all.

2Question and Answer Method: This is a common form of interrogation where an interrogator ask

several questions to get the facts of a case. He develops his questions based on the fact of the case and

the answers given to him by the suspect.

Narrative Method: Let the suspect tell his side of story without interruption. Ask him to repeat it three

or four times. He will have to tell more and more lies just to cover up one lie. The more he lies, the

more you have a chance to detect untruthfulness of his story. Verify his story and re−interrogate him.

Alibi: Ask where he was and what he was doing at the time of occurrence of the crime. Verify his

alibi and re−interrogate him.

Factual method: The best way to interrogate a hardned and professional criminal is to confront him

with the physical and circumstantial evidence, which will eventually lead to his confession.

Sweet and sour method: Interrogation conducted by two different interrogators, one being soft spoken

and other being harsh towards the suspect could be fruitful in some case.

Overheard conversation method: Whenever there is more than one offender this method works well.

One suspect while being interrogated should be viewed but not heard by another suspect from outside

of the interrogation room. When his turn of interrogation starts, tell the offender that his associate has

already confessed about the crime and now it is his turn to confess.

Hypothetical situation: Ask a suspect that even he has not done it, how would he have done it in the

similar situation. May be some important clue could come out of this.

Telling the story backward: Sometimes you could ask a suspect his side of story backward. If he has

told you what he has done from yesterday 6AM to today 10PM, then let him start from today 10PM to

yesterday 6AM

Bluff Method: Interrogators have used this method for extracting truth from suspects.In this method an

interrogator tells a suspect that he has been seen by witness while committing crime or that his

fingerprint, footprint or physical evidence have been found at the scene of crime, so there is no choice

but to tell the truth. You may be successful extracting the fact in exceptional case but this is not the

right method because if the suspect is innocent, the situation is ridiculous.

There is no hard and fast rule as to what method you apply to extract the fact or the confession. It is upto you

and, your experience will guide you to interrogate various kind of suspects. But one should always keep in

mind that a confession even in writing is nothing more than a piece of paper unless it is supported or

corroborated by other independent physical or circumstantial evidence.

Interview of Witnesses

There are various kinds of witnesses such as indifference witness, interested witness, hostile witness and child

witness. Indifference witness is the best kind of witness for a case because the witness does not have any

interest in success or failure of the case. He will always prefer to tell whatever he knows about the case

without lying, whereas the interested witness may be a friend, a relative or a potential beneficiary in the case

and may exaggerate the fact. As for the hostile witness, he may have close relation or friendship with the

suspect and do want to lie to protect the suspect. You may need to interrogate him rather than interview him.

Child is a volatile witness who does not lie but is prone to the suggestions.

3It is worth to have an eyewitness to support a case but you should also know that his education, technical

knowledge, physical condition, profession and emotion influence his observation. Don't expect him to tell

everything of what happened when the incident took place. He does not observe as what a police officer needs

to observe. His information is valuable if it corroborates to the physical or circumstantial evidence collected.

Reconstruction of a case is important to verify the truthfulness of the information of an eyewitness.

Detecting a lie

Polygraph and Computer Voice Stress Analyzer are being used to detect lies. While the Polygraph measures

changes in person's body associated with stress of deception− alterations in heart rate, breathing, emoional

sweating, the Computerized Voice Stress Analyzer measures changes in voice frequency in the human voice

that occur whenever someone is lying. The use of both of these tools are helpful to an investigator to narrow

down the area of investigation even though the results are not admissible in the court of law due to the

probability of evading a deception.