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  • Fostering Knowledge, Increasing Confidence, Enhancing Careers

Interview Room Design

The environment, more than any other factor, will predetermine an interviewer’s likelihood of success. When interviewing subjects (victims, witnesses and suspects), the location of the interview is VERY important. Whenever possible, we should be interviewing people on “our turf,” that is, in an interview room at our facility. The ideal interview room is a small room (approximately 10 x 10 feet) with only a table and two or three chairs. There should be no pictures, no windows, no phone, and no distractions. We are aiming for a calm, private, and of critical importance – a safe setting that will enable the subject to provide difficult information.

Arrange the room for success.  Sit the person at one corner of the room, facing the door.  You should sit facing the subject with the door behind you. Do not place a table between you and the subject. When you place a subject on the opposite side of the table, you will miss 50 – 75% of their body language.  You should always be able to observe the subject’s entire body – head to toe.  The easiest way to accomplish this is to place yourself and the subject at the corner of the table, at a 45 degree angle. Having a table allows you to place “props” at some point during the interrogation phase.  For example, audio/video tapes, case folders, boxes containing physical or implied evidence, etc.

Sometimes we have no choice but to interview people at their home, their job, or a public location. Just understand that we are at a disadvantage in such environments. If this is the case, always go with a partner and ask the subject to speak with you outside their house or office, adjacent to or in your car.  The key here is to increase your safety and have better control of a foreign environment. Whenever possible, give yourself the strategic edge by choosing an environment over which you have total physical and psychological control.

Paul & Enrique have been team teaching Interviewing & Interrogation together since 1997. They are the principals of Third Degree Communications, Inc.

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    —Julio Ibarra, Merced County Sheriff’s Office
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    —Steven Aiello, Antioch Police Department
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    —Quinten Graves, Oregon State Police
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    —Mark Paynter, Oregon DOC
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    —Michael McGarvey, California State Prison, San Quentin
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    —Sunny Burgan, MSSW, LCSW, Social Work Supervisor, Santa Clara County DFCS
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    —Det. Brian Dale, Portland Police Bureau
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    —Kimberly Meyer, Washoe County Sheriff's Department
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    —Daniel Phelan, San Jose Police Department
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    —R. Bret Fidler, Santa Clara County Probation Department