THE MAGAZINE

Interview and Interrogation Techniques

By Dan Bergevin

*****Interview and Interrogation Techniques. By Doug Wicklander and Dave Zulawski; published by Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, www.w-z.com (Web); audio CD; $39.95

No two interviews are the same, much less the cases that call for interviews. Thus, there can be problems with a broad-brush approach to the topic, placing very different approaches side by side when discussing the field. It’s a pleasure to discover that this audio CD focuses on interviewing in one specific application, devoting its entire 70 minutes to internal theft investigations conducted by loss prevention personnel.

Doug Wicklander and Dave Zulawski, well-established pros in the interview game, start by discussing physical and verbal behavior. They appropriately skim the topic of physical behavior, because it’s difficult to convey in audio format, and quickly move into the intricacies of interrogation.

Throughout the rest of the CD, Wicklander and Zulawski explain the six phases of interrogation: accusation, denial, rationalization, submission, presentation of choice, and development of admission. While many examples are provided to help the interviewer understand and apply each phase, the emphasis falls on the psychological tactics that are at the root of each step and of the process as a whole.

One well-known tactic in the rationalization phase—and one explained expertly here—involves the interviewer offering the subject possible justifications or excuses for his or her actions. Low pay, high debt, peer pressure, and other reasons for theft are presented to the suspect so that the interviewer can be seen to empathize.

This leads to the presentation of choice phase, in which two incriminating options for explaining him or herself are offered to the suspect. One of the choices is a rationalized motive that was offered earlier by the interviewer. The other is something more serious. Ideally, this leads the suspect into admitting to the crime and picking the more acceptable of the two motives.

That phase segues into the development of admission phase in which the interviewer attempts to induce a full admission of the suspect’s crimes. To do so, interviewers can “start high” or “start low.”

In “start high,” the interviewer exaggerates the theft amount during the questioning, leading the suspect to admit to a smaller theft for fear of facing more serious charges. By starting low, the investigator teases out admissions to minor thefts by convincing the suspect that the company doesn’t care about these small crimes. The interviewer uses these admissions as leverage to obtain further admissions of theft, now that the suspect’s willingness to steal, and admit to it, are out in the open.

The presentation of these techniques is clear and concise. In just over an hour, any loss prevention professional will learn new interview techniques and understand the process in a systematic fashion. Also valuable is the inclusion of a booklet highlighting lessons of the CD, and a wallet-sized laminated card that contains key points of interviewing.

Reviewer: Dan Bergevin is the principal of Catfield International, an intelligence and security firm based in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area.

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