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  • Celebrating 20 Years of Training Excellence 2004-2024

A Basic Premise – People Lie

It is a basic human instinct to lie to avoid consequences. We discover this around 3 years of age and it develops and spirals out of control from then on. Some people are really good liars and others not so much. But the one constant is that everybody does it to some extent. For those of you in the law enforcement community, we’re not telling you anything you don’t already know. For cops, getting lied to is a daily occurrence.

Here’s what we find interesting – even though cops know they are going to get lied to, every cop still hates it when it happens. When people lie to us, we resent it and we usually show it. We get angry and tell the person not to insult our intelligence. We wear our feelings on our sleeves and allow our disdain, our disgust, and our resentment show. Here’s a question for you to honestly consider: How often do people tell you the truth once you get mad at them for lying to you? If you’re being honest, the answer is rarely.

So let’s review what we know:

1. People Lie – it’s a fundamental human trait
2. Cops hate it when people lie to them and often show their anger
3. This is not an effective way to get people to tell the truth

Knowing all these things, we should take note of what we can predict about human behavior. If you know people are going to lie to you, and you know you’re not going to like it, and you know that getting angry is not going to get you the result you want, then why on earth would you keep repeating the same pattern over and over again?

Getting people to tell the truth involves making a conscious choice to take a different approach other than the one that comes most naturally to you. What does work when it comes to getting people to tell the truth is establishing rapport, demonstrating empathy, assuming a non-judgmental demeanor, and then employing what you learn in the interview during the interrogation.


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    —Sunny Burgan, MSSW, LCSW, Social Work Supervisor, Santa Clara County DFCS
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