Interviewing those that are suspected members of an organized retail crime ring requires a strategic approach and preparation. These conversations may vary in context, taking place in a loss prevention office, on a roadside stop, or in custody at a police station. Based on the subject and other variables, a fact-gathering cognitive interview may be appropriate whereas others may require a more strategic approach using the Participatory Method. Regardless of these above variables, there are several mistakes interviewers make that cause them to fall short of their ultimate goal in identifying actionable information. Poor question structure, insincere rapport, and the unnecessary escalation of a conversation are just a few of the problems we often see. Here, we’ve explored a few other common issues that, if fixed, can result in obtaining more information with less resistance.
What Did You Say?
To be a good interviewer, you must be a great listener. During a conversation with a suspected ORC member, there may be several key points of information sprinkled throughout. An aggressive interviewer may be so focused on their next question that they could miss critical disclosures or admissions made by the subject. “We usually don’t hit stores like this” or “We took the van this time” both suggest the need for follow-up questions to obtain additional intelligence. Being too quick to jump to the next topic causes an interviewer to miss out on words like “usually” or phrases such as “this time”.
Don’t Just Check the Box
Many organizations provide their investigators with an ORC questionnaire or checklist of items to ask the subject about. Consistency in this process is important, and with proper training can be executed at a high level. However, interviewers must also be adaptable. As an example, if the subject is becoming resistant to implicating others involved, the interviewer should transition to a different topic and re-establish rapport. Continuing down a script in linear fashion may increase resistance from the subject, come across as insincere, and allow for the interviewee to simply answer all questions in the negative.
Less Is More
Stop talking so much. The goal of an investigative interview is to obtain as much intelligence as possible. With the limited time that an ORC interview provides us, the more the investigator is talking means the less opportunity for the subject to provide information. There needs to be a strategic dialogue, and obviously some guidance by the interviewer as to the process. However, when we ask a question, we should actually listen to the entire response. Impatient interviewers are often observed interrupting a subject or redirecting their response. This tactic will aggravate the subject, contaminate their memory recall, and most likely result in obtaining less information.
False Evidence Ploy
Lying about evidence poses a whole series of problems, including the risk of obtaining false information. Investigators in ORC cases may feel the need to embellish their evidence in effort to establish greater credibility in the investigation, but lying about evidence is not the appropriate way to do so. Instead, educating the subject on the tools available for an investigation through a transparent process will establish credibility for the investigator without having to present false information. The investigator does not have to disclose all their trade secrets, but simply explaining resources such as digital video, information sharing, and data analytics will allow the subject to understand how comprehensive the investigation can be. If this is communicated properly, it allows the investigator to maintain credibility while also building trust with the subject by being transparent of the process.
The End Game
One of the biggest mistakes made by investigators is being siloed into a confession-driven approach. These interviews should not be aimed at obtaining the “I did it”, but instead toward a larger scope of obtaining as much information as possible. Investigators should have a list of topic areas they wish to explore (relative to the case) allowing them to maneuver through a wider scope of information outside of a simple shoplifting incident. When we are solely focused on a confession, we enter the conversation with a presumption of guilt (and a limited scope). Instead, investigators should be open to alternative explanations as well as the knowledge that the current person of interest may be the tip of an iceberg of a much larger investigation. In the era of information sharing and collaboration with law enforcement, interviewers play a crucial role in obtaining as much accurate and reliable information as possible.