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Should you trust the empathetic police officer interrogating you?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2024 | Criminal Defense

When law enforcement investigates a crime, they often interview suspects or parties of interest. In previous eras, officers relied on brute-force questioning tactics and perhaps aggression to get answers and information.

Things are changing in the modern world, with many departments eschewing intimidating tactics in favor of an empathetic approach to interrogations. Do not be fooled by softly speaking, sympathetic-sounding police or detectives. They still want to make an arrest when someone commits a crime.

How do empathy-based interrogations work?

This interrogation style relies on building rapport and understanding with suspects or interview subjects. Interrogators use empathy to understand the other party’s viewpoint and motivation for allegedly committing a crime. They may provide incentives for information, such as expressing sympathy for you or appearing to minimize the severity of an offense.

These interrogations use the assumption that most suspects are inclined to honesty, especially when treated with respect and understanding. As a result, you may feel more comfortable during an interview and inadvertently say something that ties you to a crime.

Does this method focus on obtaining confessions?

No, and there are no actual steps for officers to follow, as with the standard Reid interrogation technique. Instead, this tactic often focuses on corroborating events, timelines, witness statements or evidence. In other words, what you say during an empathy-based interrogation could implicate you without your awareness.

Does Virginia law enforcement use this method?

Yes, and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services provides police officers with training on this interrogation strategy. So, even though your Virginia interviewer may be the definition of kind and sympathetic, you still should not speak with them or answer their questions.

As always, the right to remain silent is your first, best protection—say nothing without legal counsel when talking to the police.