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Establishing Rapport with a Suspect
John Reid & Associates
We all know someone whom we respect and admire. It may be a
teacher, coach, pastor, scout master, friend or parent.
Assume that we committed a crime of some sort and this
admired individual sat down and said:
"We both know you made a mistake and we also both know that
the right thing to do is to tell the truth. For everyone
concerned let people know why this thing happened. Did you
plan this out, or did it just happen on the spur of the
moment? I don't' think that you would ever plan something
like this out, it was just the spur of the moment, wasn't
Because of the established trust and respect felt toward
this individual, we would very likely listen to his
statements, nod our head in agreement, and confess that what
we did happened on the spur of the moment.
On the other hand, if
the person who said these words was a stranger whom we
believed was just out to punish us and did not care about
our well being, reputation or self-image, we would likely
challenge the individual to prove our guilt and continue to
deny involvement in the offense. The difference between
these two situations is that in the first the communicator
has an established rapport with the suspect.
In most professional interactions (physician, attorney,
therapists, investigator) rapport is defined as "a
relationship marked by trust and conformity." In other
words, if my doctor recommends that I get a particular
medical test I will schedule the test because I trust the
advice of my physician and perceive her/him as looking out
for my best interests and acting as an advocate for me.
For obvious legal
reasons, an investigator should not make statements designed
to convince a suspect that he or she is acting as an
advocate for the suspect. However, to be effective the
investigator must try to legally convince the suspect that
he is someone who can be trusted and is a fair and objective
First Impression is Critical
Research has shown that within seconds after meeting a
stranger a strong and lasting impression of the stranger is
formed. The investigator needs to be very aware of this
first impression effect. Upon entering the interview room
the investigator should appear businesslike but not
authoritative or threatening. For this reason, it is
recommended that the investigator avoid introductions
containing an authoritative title such as "Detective" or
"Captain." For the same reason the investigator should not
use emotionally charged language when referring to the
purpose of the interview, e,g, "murder", "rape", "molest."
In a non-custodial case
the initial introduction may be something like this: "Good
morning, my name is Brian Jayne. Thank you for coming in to
talk to me."
If the suspect is in custody, the introduction may be:
"Good morning Mr. Johnson. Last night someone took money
from Jake's Liquor Store at gunpoint. I would like to ask
you questions about that but before I can ask any questions
I have to let you know that you do have the right to remain
silent, any statement you make can be used against you in a
court of law, that you have a right to an attorney and if
you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided. Do you
mind talking to me about this?"
Establish a Relationship with Suspect
After the initial introduction comes the
relationship-building phase of rapport. The investigator's
goals are to establish his objectivity by asking
non-accusatory questions and, second, that the interview
consists of a question / answer format. In addition, at this
early stage of the interview, the investigator wants to
establish the suspect's baseline behaviors (eye contact,
communication style, emotional state, etc.) and make
preliminary assessments of the suspect's intelligence,
ability to understand the English language, mental health,
The investigator may
choose to initially engage in casual conversation with the
suspect at the outset of an interview:
"Did you have any problems finding our office?"
"Did you come in on the Eisenhower?" "How bad was the
"Do you think that we are ever going to see Spring this
An especially effective
technique to establish rapport with a suspect is to express
sincere interest in some aspect of his life. For example,
the investigator may notice a Marine tattoo on the suspect's
forearm and ask when and where he served. Perhaps the
investigator can comment that he attended the same high
school as the suspect or lived in the same part of town.
This personal attention or common experience provides
valuable material to establish trust.
At some point the
investigator will spend a minute or two asking the suspect
non-threatening background questions under the pretense of
gathering or confirming biographical information:
"Could you spell your
last name for me?"
"What is your first name?"
"What is your marital status?"
"Do you have any children?"
"What is your current address?"
"How long have you lived there?"
"Does anyone else live there with you?"
"Are you presently employed?"
"Where do you work?"
"What school do you attend?"
"Have you declared a major?"
"Do you participate in any extra curricular activities?"
Establishing rapport with most suspects only takes a few
minutes. If the suspect is extremely nervous or has been
mistreated by a previous investigator and is therefore
resentful, several minutes of non-threatening background
questions may be required. What should be avoided, however,
is a very lengthy (30-45 minute) rapport building session.
Under this circumstance, referred to as "forced rapport,"
suspects may feel that the investigator is trying to
manipulate them by delving into personal areas such as their
childhood, personal values or hobbies that have nothing
whatsoever to do with the issue under investigation.
An exception to this
guideline is when establishing rapport with someone who is
incarcerated. The incarcerated individual's daily routine is
boring and a lengthy, non-threatening conversation with the
investigator may be welcomed. Under this circumstance it is
not unusual for the investigator to conduct dozens of
interviews with the inmate over a period of several months.
for an extended rapport-building period is the suspect's
culture. Some cultures consider it rude to only have a
peripheral social exchange before getting down to business.
Under this circumstance it may be appropriate to spend an
extended time with the suspect sharing personal information
about each other's families or country before addressing the
issue under investigation.
Establishing Structure to the Interview
interview is not an informal chat with a suspect. It is
structured and purposeful. This means the investigator will
ask prepared questions and document the suspect's responses
with a written note following each response.
There are many benefits to taking active written notes
during an interview. One of them is that active note taking
slows down the pace of questioning. This creates a period of
silence following each verbal response. It is during this
period of 3-5 seconds that most significant nonverbal
behaviors occur. This period of silence also allows the
investigator time to analyze the suspect's response and make
a decision to ask either a follow-up question or move to the
next area of inquiry.
Conversely, if the
investigator takes sporadic notes or only starts taking
written notes when the suspect answers questions about the
crime, the suspect will attach special significance to the
fact that the investigator decided to take a written note.
This may cause the suspect to be more guarded and less
forthright in volunteering information, which is obviously
In conclusion, establishing rapport with a suspect at the
outset of an interview will be an important factor in
determining the success of the interview. Rapport begins
with a non-threatening and business-like introduction. The
investigator then needs to establish the suspect's trust.
This can be accomplished by asking non-threatening questions
that appear to establish the suspect's identity or other
important background information. It is also important that
the investigator establish a pattern of taking written notes
right at the outset of the interview.
and Permission Statement:
Permission is hereby granted to those who wish to share or
copy this article. In those instances, the following Credit
Statement must be included "This Investigator Tip was
developed by John E. Reid and Associates Inc. 800-255-5747 /
Inquiries regarding Investigator Tips should be directed to
Fitness Tip from
Having a hard time making it to the gym?
There are a multitude of exercises that use minimal equipment and
can be performed virtually anywhere just like the four exercises
shown in this
Expand your exercise toolbox and learn tips to ensure safety.
A Guide to Body Armor for Law Enforcement
officers are on the front line of a daily war against
society's most dangerous individuals. Depending on the
area you work in, the severity of risks you face on each
shift will vary: officers patrolling inner-city streets
are more likely to encounter greater threats on a
regular basis than those operating in rural areas.
Despite your location, you should never be complacent –
you should always be prepared.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page,
law enforcement professionals have died this year so far.
The most common cause of death? Gunfire,
with 38 fatal incidents (two of which were
accidental). Firearms are the biggest danger officers
face in the line of duty, but knives and other sharp
instruments are also prevalent.
Body armor can mean the difference between life and
death. How do you know which is best for different
threats? Read on to learn more about your options.
Knives, Needles: The Right Armor for the Job
Police officers should have access to a wide range of
body armor at all times: ballistic vests, edged blade
vests, and spiked weapon vests. Each of these protects
against various ammunition and weapon types, but
numerous sub-types are available. Body armor is also
offered in covert, overt, and covert / overt designs,
ideal for high-visibility and undercover operations
alike (the latter type offers the option to be worn over
and under clothing as a situation demands).
vests absorb a bullet's energy on impact, and
redistribute it throughout the armor, flattening the
round so it cannot tear through. The
Institute of Justice (NIJ) tests and rates body armor
based on the amount of protection it offers, assigning a
specific level to each vest.
bulletproof vests offer protection against various
common rounds, of the 9mm and .357 Magnum range. Level
IIIA defends against these, as well as .44 Magnum and
9mm sub-machine gun rounds. These are classed as soft
armors, and commonly worn by officers on patrol.
Level III body
armor protects against high-powered rifles, defending
you from such rounds as 7.62mm full-metal jacketed
types, as well as 5.56mm FMJs, 12-gauge slugs, and 30
Carbine FMJs. Vests rated at level IV are the most
heavy-duty available, and typically worn by SWAT teams
and officers entering situations threatening severe
danger. These protect against armor-piercing gunfire,
such as .30-06 caliber rounds, and feature tough plates
made of steel, ceramics, or titanium.
known as stab vests, edged blade armor is designed to
stop blades tearing through to flesh and bone. These
vests are made of tightly-woven Kevlar, which create
friction against blades used in slashing and stabbing
attacks. NIJ rates these in three levels, each designed
to defend against attacks launched with varying levels
of energy (the more ferocious the attack, and the bigger
the blade, the tougher the armor should be). Stab vests
can defend against improvised and engineered blades
alike. If patrolling an area with high crime where guns
are unexpected, edged blade armor may be the best
Suspects may attack with syringes, needles, icepicks,
and other improvised weapons. Whereas stab vests are
designed to stop knives cutting through, spiked weapons
are typically used differently, usually with a single
point of impact. Spiked tips will pass through the space
between threads in standard clothing, so this body armor
features an incredibly tight weave to stop the weapon
passing through, trapping the point.
Price on Life: Cost versus Protection
some cases, police departments might lack the budget to
provide the body armor their officers so sorely need.
While some lower-level vests may be available, you also
need access to the higher levels to ensure protection in
all situations. You may be allowed to buy your own vest,
yet may be put off by the cost.
This could be a
mistake. If you find yourself wearing a level II vest
while corned by suspects carrying high-velocity
weaponry, a single shot could tear through the Kevlar
and puncture a vital organ. Expense should be no excuse.
A department should always try to find the funding to
equip their officers with the protection they need, but
if all else fails, you should be willing to cover the
costs yourself – your life may depend on it.
Sizing up: Finding
your perfect fit
The right fit is essential. If you wear body armor which
is too big or too small, you may still leave yourself
exposed to danger. How? Well, if your oversized vest
drops an inch or two while fired upon, the bullets may
pass over the top, hitting your chest. An undersized
vest may affect your freedom of movement, reducing your
agility and flexibility – a serious problem if you need
to run, take cover, return fire, or defend yourself
against physical attacks.
The ideal vest
should reach no lower than your navel area, and should
sit comfortably against the torso. To be sure you have
the right size, measure your chest and height before you
order, and check these against your supplier's charts.
If in doubt, seek expert help.
SafeGuard Clothing, http://www.safeguardarmor.com
, who have provided us with this free resource on
a guide to body armor for law enforcement officers
10 Things That Fuel Negative Police Image Among the Public
with Paul Cappitelli
“Police must secure the willing cooperation of the
public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to
secure and maintain the respect of the public.” — Sir
Mantaining the positive image of the
police has always been a challenge since the days of the
first known police force dating back to the 1800s. With
the advent of social media, this challenge is amplified
exponentially. At a moment’s notice, the misdeeds of one
officer can go viral across the globe without any
ability to mitigate or reconcile the damage.
Part of this is just the cost of doing
business in the digital age, but what
about the part of the problem that can
be influenced by altering human
behavior? What are the most common daily
activities that officers do to fuel a
Sir Robert Peel said, “Police must
secure the willing cooperation of the
public in voluntary observance of the
law to be able to secure and maintain
the respect of the public.”
As fundamental and elementary as this
all sounds, I would suggest that some
police leaders in this modern era may
have lost sight of these basics.
More Peel wisdom: “The test of police
efficiency is the absence of crime and
disorder, not the visible evidence of
police action in dealing with it.”
Simply stated, it’s not what you say to
the public about how good you are at
policing. It’s what the public feels
about the police based upon what they
see every day. Whether we want to
acknowledge this or not, perception is
reality to the public. Here are ten
behaviors that fuel negative police
image which you as a police leader can
minimize or even eliminate.
1. Driving recklessly and/or unnecessary
speeding in a police vehicle
Since police officers are in the
business of writing tickets to the
public for speeding and reckless
driving, it is no surprise that the
citizens are incensed when they see a
police car speeding by or driving
erratically. The justification from the
department is that speeding is necessary
to get the job done. But the difference
in arrival time by speeding to a call
versus driving within or near the speed
limit is negligible.
Additionally, excessive speed is one of
the leading causes of peace officer
injury and death. A little reminder memo
on this topic to the troops from the
chief executive can go a long way
towards both officer safety and positive
2. Talking on a mobile device while
driving a police vehicle
Okay, we get the fact that most states
have an exemption that allows on-duty
police officers to talk on the phone
while driving. But how much of this
talking and driving is job-related?
Personal calls on patrol should be
minimized. The public views this as
unnecessary and they are probably right.
3. Texting while driving a police
Similar to talking on the phone and
driving, texting is more egregious and
dangerous, too. There is no
justification for an officer to be
texting and driving anytime, period.
Here again, not only does it fuel a
negative image, but it is dangerous as
4. Not wearing seat belts in a police
Many departments have exemptions which
allow on-duty peace officers to avoid
wearing seatbelts. For some reason,
police officers feel that they are
exempt from the law of physics as well.
Any police leader who doesn't understand
the importance of seatbelts in the
preservation of an officer's life has
his head buried in the sand.
The public expects police officers to
obey the seatbelt laws and reject the
notion that police officers need to get
out of the car in a hurry and therefore
should not be wearing seatbelts.
5. Parking the police vehicle in a no
parking or handicap zone
Clearly there are times when a police
officer needs to park the patrol vehicle
in an unauthorized area. However, there
is no excuse for the officer who parks
the patrol car in the fire lane and goes
into the dry cleaners to pick up dry
cleaning or into the store to get a soda
or a cup of coffee. The public views
this as a blatant disrespect for the
6. Fueling the perception of special
Many years ago, the late General Norman
Schwarzkopf told a story in his book
about a general visiting the troops on
the battlefield during meal time. The
officers and soldiers invited the
general to eat at the front of the line
ahead of the troops. The general went
and stood in the back of the line and
said that he will wait in line just like
any other soldier.
This is not only a powerful leadership
lesson, but it can be applied
fundamentally to the image of the police
and the public. Anytime a police officer
uses the position of authority to gain
an advantage, the public loses some
7. Accepting “police discounts”
All law enforcement agencies have
policies in place that forbid the
acceptance of gratuities, yet police
officers always seem to find the places
who are willing to offer them. There is
no need to discuss the merits of this
issue in depth, but it's worth
mentioning as a factor of negative
8. Unsightly personal appearance
Beards, long mustaches, offensive
tattoos, morbid obesity and any other
element of unprofessional appearance
create negative images. There's a reason
the police academy stresses clean
appearances and good hygiene. Does the
term "command presence" ring any bells?
9. Non-uniform uniforms
The word “uniform” loses meaning when
departments allow officers to wear
several variations of attire. Since when
did baseball caps, BDUs, polo shirts,
and drop-down leg-strapped holsters
become acceptable uniforms?
Certainly there are times when such
attire is appropriate depending upon the
operation. But wearing these unsightly
so-called uniforms creates a negative
image to the community. It is difficult
enough to try and explain why officers
must sometime revert to military-style
garments, but everyday use is just
fodder for police critics.
10. Treating individuals disrespectfully
no matter the situation
It's tough to be a police officer and
take verbal and physical abuse on a
regular basis. But go back and read the
job description. It says cops must rise
above the abuse and “maintain courageous
calm in the face of danger, scorn or
ridicule.” Again, very fundamental yet a
key factor in projecting a positive
The positive image of the police in the
United States is more critical now more
than any other time in recent history.
Police leaders must take a step back and
evaluate these negative factors and
others to determine if the officers
themselves are an integral part of the
negative police image problem. Anyone
can plainly recognize when a department
may have lost its way.
But it takes great courage to reel it
back in and address all of the negative
aspects that detract from the mission.
It's time to grab the rudder and steer
the image ship back on course. If you
get lost, look at the roadmap that has
served the profession for almost two
centuries. He may not have had a mobile
phone or a computer, but Sir Peel did
have the right ideas. It's time to get
back to some basics.
About the author
Paul Cappitelli is a career law
enforcement professional with over 35
years of experience. From 2007-2012,
Paul served as executive director of the
California Commission on Peace Officer
Standards and Training (POST). Prior to
this, he served with the San Bernardino
County Sheriff's Department (SBSD) for
29 years retiring at the rank of
Captain. Paul has a Master's degree in
Public Administration and a BS degree in
Business and Management.
Contact Paul Cappitelli
Permission is hereby granted to those
who wish to share or copy this article.
In those instances, the following Credit
Statement must be included "This
Investigator Tip was developed by John
E. Reid and Associates Inc. 800-255-5747
Inquiries regarding Investigator Tips
should be directed to Janet Finnerty
A New Association for L.E. Firearms
In January 2015, the National Law
Enforcement Firearms Instructors
NLEFIA is dedicated to the
development of professional firearms
instructors from the law enforcement,
military, and private sector
NLEFIA provides a network of information
sharing, continuing education and
training, and advanced certifications.
NLEFIA was created to further the
knowledge and skills of professional
firearms instructors...to take them to
the next level...so they can take their
students to the next level.
The leadership within NLEFIA is
progressive…an Executive Director that
is still active duty law enforcement and
a highly experienced firearms and
tactics instructor…and a Board of
Advisors comprised of some of the top
trainers in the nation with various
backgrounds, philosophies, and training
This diversity within the Board
of Advisors will ensures NLEFIA is
always on the cutting edge of
information and training.
There are various levels of
membership…law enforcement ($50
annually), military ($40 annually),
retired LE / military ($35 annually),
and private sector ($60 annually).
Membership benefits include a
monthly newsletter, a quarterly
publication, eligibility to attend the
Annual Training Conference and other
training courses, access to resources in
the secure members area, access to the
members forum, access to a searchable
members directory for networking, access
to product and service discounts, and
If you’re looking for an association
where new instructors can go for
continuing development and where veteran
instructors can go to pass on their
knowledge and experiences to the next
generation, then NLEFIA is the
organization for you.
And, while the organization is
new, the leadership is not.
I encourage all law enforcement
firearms instructors to check out the
association website (nlefia.org) and
consider becoming a member.
Executive Director – NLEFIA
NLEFIA - National Law Enforcement
Firearms Instructors Association
800-930-2953 / nlefia.org
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