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Published On: Fri, Jan 18th, 2019

Getting the Response You Want: 7 Types of Witnesses and the Right Way to Interrogate Them

After a crime has occurred, usually police or law enforcement will come in to interview people that were involved, are suspected of being involved, or may know something or have seen something. There are various interrogation techniques used in law enforcement, and each officer might have their own style and variation that they personally use. They may change these tactics depending on what type of witness they find themselves in front of during any given day. Some interrogators might even team up together for the whole “good cop, bad cop” type of situation that would be beneficial.

Photo/Nodar Kherkheulidze via wikimedia commons

There are typically seven distinct types of witnesses based on personality and their reactions to landing in the interrogation room. To get the response you want, you would need to tinker your interrogation tactics to match the type of witness you have at hand.

  1. The Willing Witness

The first type of witness would be the willing participant. This person would be the ideal candidate and would be the type to be willing to help with a lawsuit. They are the most accurate person in terms of recollection and wouldn’t need much prompting or prodding in terms of interrogation. A few gentle questions would be enough to get them to provide the information needed.

  1. The Unwilling or Quiet Witness

The second type of witness would be the unwilling participant. This witness is the exact opposite of the willing witness. This person might be a detained individual not willing to give information out on a friend or other person in their close circle. They might also just be too scared to give information because they are generally scared they might get in trouble or get themselves in hot water. Getting this type to answer any questions is difficult and doesn’t usually prove fruitful. Tough love might be the answer here or hard questioning by a senior interrogator.

  1. The Semi-Willing or Hesitant

The third type of witness is almost an amalgam or a combination of the first two types. They might be hesitant for the same reasons the unwilling witness was, that they are worried about getting themselves or others in trouble but are also scared of not giving information pertinent to the case. They walk the fine line between these two areas but can often be swayed to say relevant information once the benefits are pointed out to them. They need a more gentle but firm approach, but someone who is willing to do a bit of coaxing without being overly aggressive so they don’t retract back into an unwilling participant.

  1. The Shy Witness

The fourth type is the shy witness. This witness is different from the hesitant witness in the fact that they might have different reasons for being shy or hesitant about partaking in the case. They might just be scared in general and this sacredness might have nothing to do with the situation at hand. Again, a skilled interrogator would be able to get the information out of this witness, but a gentle approach would be better here.

  1. The Aggressive Witness

The fifth type is the aggressive witness is one who is not afraid to stand up to law enforcement and may have been in trouble with the law before. Since they have seen the ins and outs of the justice system, they are aggressive and often trying to hide something. Thus, the outer show is just that, a show. They aren’t willing to give up information just because a cop or someone in a position of power is trying to ask for it. They aren’t scared of any repercussions or what might happen for not being cooperative in the case. The best interrogator here is someone with a firm background that can see through what the person is trying to portray, but also take any little tidbits that the aggressive witness might give and filter them out into a useful lead.

  1. The Over the Top Witness

This witness loves being in the centre of attention. They want to tell you all about everything they saw, even if they weren’t asked about the particulars of certain moments. This witness is often not always the most reliable because they may just be looking for the limelight and attention. Often times people in certain situations may be looking for someone to talk to, and all that talk may not lead to any valid facts that pertain to the case. This witness needs someone similar to the one who interviewed the aggressive witness above, that is, someone who can take the information and shake it down like sand through a sieve. There may be a diamond in the leftovers, but it needs careful examination.

  1. The Drunk or High Witness

The last witness, the drunk witness, is also a somewhat unreliable witness. The nature of them being intoxicated (either drunk or under the influence of drugs) could seriously impair both their recollection and their willingness to help. However, the question remains, is a drunk witness a bad witness? Not as bad as one might think. They may be more open and malleable to being honest about what they saw and heard that the quiet, shy, or unwilling witness. Someone who might have previously been a more unwilling participant here might now have loose lips about what really went down during the situation being investigated.

Again, depending on the type of witness that is handed to them, police tend to change their tactics based on that. The various interrogation styles will range from quiet to a more aggressive style, just as wide as the change from one witness to the next. What works for one witness, will not work for the next. Nor can each witness be taken at face value. Some may need the information give to be taken with a grain of salt, whereas others are the perfect witness to have. Unfortunately, that witness isn’t always at hand, so police have to make do with what they get and fit the puzzle pieces together.

Author: Laura Brown

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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