Under Arrest - I is for Interrogation

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Welcome back to A-Z 2019 - today's letter i I and it's for Interviews and Interrogations.

Let's start by talking about the difference between the two: an interview is typically a less formal and accusatory conversation whose main point is to elicit information whereas an interrogation is formal and is mainly designed to get a suspect to confess. 

Over the years there have been many interrogation techniques, some of which are not allowed anymore, think the use of mind altering drugs ("truth serums" - wouldn't that be amazing, though?), sleep deprivation, torture,...

Which leaves us with 

  • The good old good cop / bad cop routine, two officers will pretend to take opposing sides while interacting with a subject. While the ‘bad cop’ is seemingly against the subject, the 'good cop' seems to take the side of the subject, sympathizing with and even defending the subject. The purpose of this technique is to have the subject think that he or she can confide in the ‘good cop,’ thus providing him or her with information that may help further the case.
  • Focus on (non) verbal cues - signs a person is not telling the truth: they keep fidgeting and touching their nose, they don't use whole sentences, just fragments, they can't maintain a steady eye contact, they won't answer your question with a straight statement, instead they'll repeat your question or drift into irrelevant rambling
  • Deception aka bluff: we have everything on camera, we have your phone records, finger prints, your partner is confessing as we speak, he's throwing you under the bus...

If you followed the Christopher Watts case last summer / fall (and it was hard not to) you noticed that my name sister Tammy (Lee) with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation did a wonderful job taking the time to build rapport with Chris, making him feel comfortable which led him to tell her a lot about his background that they could use later.

At first I couldn't believe how nice and relaxed she was. She's never gonna get him to confess, I thought. Then again they released the video to the public, she must be on to something. And she was! I'll talk more about her in P is for Poligraph.

Allow me to share something from my own professional experience as a Human Resources person who was also involved in exposing retail employees who were suspected to be doctoring the cash register in order to steal from the company. 

Here's how a typical interview / interrogation would go down:

Hi (insert name), thank you for meeting us after your shift. We wanted to touch base and make sure everything is going smoothly with your job. So it's been how many weeks / months (heck, even years) that you've been working for us? 
I started last November, so it's been five months.

Excellent. How's everything going in general?
Great, thanks.
Is there anything you'd like to address?
Uhm, no?

Your supervisor is (fill in name), right?
Yeah, he's brilliant.
So if there are any questions or concerns you would feel comfortable to ask for his advice?

What was your training like, did you get a chance to look into every aspect from serving the customer to restocking merchandise or handling the cash register?
Yes, it's all good.

Can we talk about the task concerning the register a little bit. You got your personal access card, right?
And who uses it?
Just me.
Was there ever a situation when a colleague had forgotten theirs and you let them use yours?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Now take us through the process of ringing the items for the customer.
(employee gives text-book step by step instructions.)
On average how many times a day do you think you have to void a transaction?
(employee gives a reasonable estimate)

What situations would typically require to cancel a transaction?
(employee gives a reasonable explanation)
If you had to guess would you say customers who change their minds about (not) purchasing a certain item or to change their order altogether are more likely to pay cash or with cards?
Hard to say.

Are there specific days of the week when things get hectic that you might need to cancel more transactions?
Yeah, during the morning rush and on Saturdays.
That makes perfect sense. You guys are doing such a great job keeping your cool and still smiling! 

How do you cope with hectic rushes?
I'm OK. I try not to get flustered and to do one thing at a time.
So on a slow, let's say Tuesday, it wouldn't make sense to delete countless transactions within a ten minute timeframe?

See, that's where I'm troubled. These are your records that were sent to us by the loss prevention department over at (insert city of HQ) This is your name right here, correct?
So we have (insert day and exact time) here. You had a couple credit card transactions, they all seem OK. Now here. Five customers in a row seem to have caused you to cancel their transactions, by any chance can you remember that incident?
Not specifically. It may have been students. Sometimes they are shocked by our prices and then decide not to go through with their order.

So it could have been five students? Let's have a look at the cancelled orders (list the five very different orders that point to five customers who are neighter students nor part of a group)
Maybe not.
That seems to be a bit of a pattern in your records, It typically occurs somewhere between 10 and 10:30am and again between 2:30 and 3pm, what would those times suggest?

I think it's when your coworker is on break and you're alone for a bit.
So what happens when you are alone at the cash register and have to run and grab stuff for the customers at the same time? How are things different?
They're not. It's fine.
Now would be a good time to tell us what's happening.
I don't know what you guys want me to say? Everything is fine.

Look, something is going on, your store is short (insert considerable money amount) after every shift you're working, and sales are at their usual average on your days off. The annuled transactions seem to happen when your colleague is on break. Interestingly only cash transactions are ever canceled. It doesn't look good for you. Please tell us what's going on. We can determine how much you took, you pay us back, and we don't press charges.
Nothing. Maybe the system got something confused. 

Actually the system is monitoring all (insert thousands) employees, and it's working just fine. It states that you're in the top five percent of doing suspicious transactions. It typically goes down as follows: they wait till they're alone and use their colleague's ten minute break to basically cancel every cash transaction within that timeframe. Later they take the amount of money they had deleted, and that's how they end up with some cash in their pocket after their shift. Is this what happens with you?
No, I swear.

So you wouldn't mind if we continued this conversation at the police station where you have to submit your wallet, purse, bank statements, etc? They will also review the store video surveillance and go through your private life: vacation, car, apartment, clothes,...

If they didn't cave at that point I wouldn't know what else to do...

Phew... Fortunately cases like this one only happened about a handful of times during my tenure. Now there were other incidents like the time a new employee emptied the entire safe and ran. But that'll be for another day...!

Did you ever have to confront somebody about stealing or doing anything illegal? Did they confess?

Thanks for reading - see you back tomorrow I hope!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


  1. Great interrogation! It's amazing the information that can be gotten from the registers. I noticed that when I worked briefly at Michaels Arts and Crafts.

    Janet’s Smiles

  2. It seems like criminals aren't too bright. You'd think an employee would realize that they are being monitored. People do pay attention to all those things. But they don't think that far ahead, I guess.

  3. Most people who commit crimes are not that bright they lie but do not have a really good memory so end up tripping themselves up

  4. Interesting. My own professional experience as a Human Resources person. It is useful to read A to Z blogs this year. Interesting stuff. I am curious about the blog name - Hockey mom. About my blog post for I - Today my blog post had 126 page views so far which I consider as a good first day performance.
    Industrial Engineering and Operations Management - Distinction and Combination

  5. I've written a couple of interrogations but will definitely keep these tips in mind.

    DB McNicol, author
    Microfiction: Instrument


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