Conducting Effective Interviews and Interrogations

Written By: Joseph P. Buckley
Jan 26, 2022

The following are guidelines, procedures and best practices that all investigators should follow:

[Absent a life-saving circumstance conduct an interview before an interrogation.]

The Essential Elements of the Investigative Interview

  • Conduct investigative interviews in accordance with the guidelines established by the courts – advisement of rights; presence of a parent or guardian; length of time, etc.
  • Maintain a neutral, objective fact-finder demeanor
  • Do not engage in any accusatory or confrontational behaviors
  • Begin with casual conversation, biographical information, employment information, etc. to acclimate the subject to the interview process, develop rapport and to develop a behavioral baseline
  • Use open-ended questions to develop the subject’s statement, story, version of events or explanation of what happened
  • Follow the 80/20 rule…the subject should do 80% of the talking during the interview
  • Use appropriate follow-up questions to develop additional details and to clarify responses
  • Evaluate the subject’s statement in conjunction with the case facts and evidence
  • Do not tell the subject what you already know about the case – see if their statement is consistent with what you know or if the case facts and evidence contradict what the subject has stated
  • Observe the subject’s verbal and non-verbal behaviors as a guide for the interview questions – suggesting when the subject may be editing, fabricating or withholding relevant information, suggesting the need for additional follow-up questions
  • A subject’s verbal and nonverbal behaviors are not a substitute for evidence, but can be helpful in identifying when a subject may be less than candid during the interview, prompting additional questions which may in turn lead to the discovery of additional incriminating facts or evidence
  • If the subject offers an alibi attempt to verify its authenticity
  • Utilize investigative and behavior provoking questions during the interview
  • Do not reveal all of the details about the crime (it is critical to withhold crime details that can later be used to confirm the authenticity of the subject’s acknowledgment of what he did)
  • Do not show the suspect crime scene photographs that reveal corroborating details
  • Evaluate the subject’s possible involvement in the issue under investigation based on the investigation, case facts, evidence and information developed during the interview
  • Record the interview

The Essential Elements of the Interrogation Process

  • Conduct interrogations in accordance with the guidelines established by the courts - advisement of rights; presence of a parent or guardian; length of time, etc.
  • Always treat the subject with dignity and respect
  • Do not make any promises of leniency or threats of harm or inevitable consequences
  • Do not conduct interrogations for an excessively lengthy period of time
  • Do not deny the subject any of their rights
  • Do not deny the subject the opportunity to satisfy their physical needs
  • In a non-custodial interrogation do not deprive the subject of the opportunity to leave the room
  • Exercise special cautions when questioning juveniles or individuals with mental or psychological impairments – do not lie to these subjects about evidence
  • Never manufacture evidence implicating the subject
  • When a suspect claims to have little or no memory for the time period when the crime was committed do not lie the suspect about incriminating evidence
  • Begin with a statement of involvement
  • In a monologue presentation (theme) propose to the suspect reasons and motives that will serve to psychologically justify or excuse their behavior – not legally justify or excuse their behavior
  • Attempt to place the blame for what the suspect did on some person or set of circum­stances other than the suspect himself
  • “You’re a good, honest hard-working person who made a mistake in judgment due to …”
  • Focus the theme on why the suspect committed the act, not if
  • Use an alternative question to develop the subject’s initial acknowledgement of what they did: “Was this the first time you did something like this or has it happened many times before?”
  • When the subject acknowledges what they did, ask open-ended questions to develop corroborating information – the location of the murder weapon or bloody clothes; how they gained entry into the building; where they sold the stolen jewelry, etc.
  • Record the interrogation
  • The subject’s confession is not the end of the investigation…continue to develop additional details about the subject’s behavior before and after the commission of the crime and to verify the details of his statement of involvement

For additional information on how to conduct effective interviews and interrogations see our YouTube channel, The Reid Technique Tips, or our website,

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