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Observing the Interview Subject Before the Interview

One of the things we strongly emphasize in our 3 Day Interview & Interrogation class, is the importance of establishing a baseline of a subject’s behavior before you can accurately begin to detect deception. In other words, what does the subject normally look like (non-verbal) and sound like (verbal) when he is telling the truth? This is his baseline. From this, we look for deviances in verbal and non-verbal behavior that indicate deception.

Establishing this baseline should begin with observing the subject even before the interview begins – from the moment he arrives at the pre-designated interview location.

When the subject first arrives at your facility, you should allow her to wait in the lobby or waiting area for a bit. You should avail yourself of the opportunity to observe the subject in this environment. Did she come alone or with someone else? Is she making conversation or sitting quietly? Is she still and quiet, or nervous and fidgety? Is she alert and attentive, or sleepy and unaware? Compare and contrast these behaviors with the behavior you would expect to see in a truthful and innocent person. Are these behaviors consistent or at odds?

Ultimately, you will bring your subject into the interview room where he will again wait a short period of time before you begin the interview. You must have the ability to observe your subject during this time (and during any subsequent breaks in the interview). Again, do you notice any behaviors that are inconsistent with how we would expect a truthful and innocent person to act in the identical circumstances?

For example, if we make an arrest in the field and bring the subject to the police department for a custodial interview, we would expect the truthful and innocent person to be upset to one degree or another. This person would want to know what’s going on and generally have an earnest desire to get to the bottom of things so he could be released. We would not expect him to be sleeping, laughing, or joking around prior to being interviewed as that would be inconsistent with how an innocent person would behave in that situation.

As always, we must listen and observe a person carefully in order to obtain the truth.

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

  • Your class gave me the confidence and tools to interview the suspect for over 5 hours and to bring a closure to the case.

    —Daniel Phelan, San Jose Police Department
  • Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to attend the Interview and Interrogation training presented by Paul Francois and Enrique Garcia.

    —Todd Almason, Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office
  • You two are an effective teaching team, and your presentation of the material was consistently interesting, and intelligent without being too intellectualized.

    —Michele Keller, Deputy Probation Officer, County of Alameda
  • Your class has made the greatest and most direct impact on my assignment of any training class that I've taken.

    —Ken Gelskey, National City Police Department
  • ...Provides useful tools necessary for assessing the veracity of a suspected child abuser, which goes a long way in helping to protect children.

    —Sunny Burgan, MSSW, LCSW, Social Work Supervisor, Santa Clara County DFCS
  • Your instructional style is engaging and your tag-team style is highly effective.

    —George Laing, Fire Prevention Captain, Investigator
  • I highly recommend this training for any Probation staff who have the necessity to interview/interrogate individuals for investigation purposes.

    —R. Bret Fidler, Santa Clara County Probation Department
  • I will continue to use and pass on this information because I really believe in the instructors and their approach.

    —Kimberly Meyer, Washoe County Sheriff's Department
  • This was, by far, one of the most useful classes I've attended since becoming an investigator.

    —Steven Aiello, Antioch Police Department
  • The information that they have presented is highly relevant to my job, and was presented in a manner that was highly organized and very easy to digest.

    —Michael McGarvey, California State Prison, San Quentin