Questions and Answers: A Captain's Guide to Polce Questioning

Questions and Answers: A Captain's Guide to Polce Questioning

by Eric Schum




A police officer is questioning a suspect. The goal is a confession—or, at the least, information that will lead to solving the case. But often, the suspect doesn’t want to talk. What can the officer do then—within the law—to get the needed information?

Eric Schum, a captain in the New Mexico State Police, has answers that work, based on his long and successful experience in law enforcement—yielding better results in a great many cases than the old standard practices used in many other departments. In this small, information-packed book, he lays out for his fellow officers ways of questioning witnesses and suspects that get results, respect their rights, and lead to fewer false confessions.

This is a fact-filled book but also a personal one, in which Schum takes the reader through the thought processes he’s followed in one fascinating case after another, discussing lessons he’s learned, mistakes he’s made, techniques he’s mastered, and the ongoing struggles of a dedicated professional as he works to perfect a difficult craft.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781948749084
Publisher: Terra Nova Books
Publication date: 09/01/2018
Pages: 140
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.25(d)

About the Author

Eric Schum was born in Illinois and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has been in the New Mexico State Police for fifteen years and currently serves as a captain. This is his first book.

Read an Excerpt

What is my philosophy on suspect interviews? If I had to summarize it in one sentence—one sentence that would omit the details but still capture the overall essence, it would be this:

Ask a lot of questions about a lot of different things, and let the suspect answer those questions.

To understand how this works, we can start by looking at the first part: Ask a lot of questions. Many people who commit crimes know the police may come talk to them one day. If they don’t want the police to know they were involved in that crime, they prepare to deny their involvement. In other words, they prepare themselves to lie.

It’s relatively easy to prepare yourself to deny involvement in a certain act. You tell yourself that when asked if you know anything about it, you’ll just say no. When you’re asked if you were there, you’ll say no. When you’re asked if you did it, you’ll say no.

Most people can prepare themselves to tell a few lies. What most people cannot do, however, is prepare themselves to tell dozens of lies. Most people can only maintain defenses on a limited number of fronts at one time. Our hypothetical suspect may be able to lie and deny when the questions touch on a couple of topics. Fine. But when faced with a large number of questions, the suspect will have to start responding truthfully to at least some of them.

When we start to get truthful answers, we’re making progress. The primary goal of any police investigation is to get as close to the truth as possible on the one particular case we’re working on. The primary goal is not to take sides and fight for a certain cause. It is not to “build a case” against someone. It is not to get a confession.

So now we can begin to see the value in asking a lot of questions. Some people can tell five lies; others can tell fifteen. But everyone has a limit. When the number of questions overruns a person’s ability to lie, the person has no choice but to start giving up parts of the truth. Even with just little parts of the truth, we can start reconstructing the incident. A suspect may not honestly tell you where he was at the exact time of the crime, but he’ll tell you where he was before and after. A suspect may not admit to the crime, but she’ll answer honestly when asked if anyone was in the car with her. A suspect may not admit he knows where the victim lives but will admit getting gas a couple blocks from the victim’s house. You get the idea.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part I The Big Picture 3

How It All Began 5

Ask a Lot of Questions 9

The Faintest Glimmer of a Strategy 13

Ask About a Lot of Different Things 16

An Early Success Story 22

Let the Suspect Answer the Questions 27

At the Top of My Game 31

Summing It All Up 38

Part II The Fine Details 41

What We Can't Do 43

The Copper Wire Cases 48

Miranda 51

The Scooter Bandit 59

Taviclems 65

The Thief in Headquarters 74

First-Grade Questions and the Big Question 78

Hocus Pocus and Psychological Warfare 81

The Shaken-Baby Case 85

A Confession Is Not the Ultimate Goal 90

Rapport and Statement Mode 92

The Hatchet Man 97

Conclusion 104

Author's Notes 106

About the Author 107

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