Interrogation Techniques: Planning and Preparation for the Approach Phase

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

I’m a huge fan of law enforcement television shows: Blue Bloods, Law and Order: SVU, The Wire, The Shield, etc.. However, as a trained, operationally experienced interrogator and interrogation instructor, I’m sometimes perplexed by the one-size-fits-all interrogation approaches that I see often used on criminal sources on a regular basis.

Entering an interrogation room and pounding your fist on the table while yelling at the source or attempting to intimidate the source into cooperating, while being legitimate and effective interrogation approaches under certain circumstances, are by themselves not going to work the majority of the time.

Interrogation is both a science and an art. In this series of articles, I will outline a basic understanding of a “best practice” interrogation process that is the result of 18 plus years of constant refinement over the Global War on Terror that has been found to provide the most successful outcomes on a consistent basis.

This process can work with a hardened, psychopathic terrorist boss, and it can work with the idealistic 18 year old terrorist recruit who joins a group for what are, in his mind, noble reasons.

My goal is to translate this Interrogation process into a domestic version that I hope may be useful to local and federal law enforcement, forensic interviewers, loss prevention professionals, and others who may find themselves in situations requiring these sorts of skills.

When in the course of one’s duty, the necessity arises to conduct a custodial interrogation or interview due to a possible law violation, there are several elements that the interrogator has to consider and execute if the interrogation is going to be successful.

Prior even to meeting the source face to face, the interrogator should whenever possible conduct what is called a Planning and Preparation Phase. This is a careful review by the interrogator of any available information on the source – a sort of law enforcement version of creating a psychosocial history.

This can include criminal history, family and friends (who does the source care about), home environment, motivation, etc., and asking the arresting officers and detention staff what the attitude and behavior of the source have been since being in custody.

If it has been possible to conduct a thorough Planning and Preparation Phase, the interrogator should be able to go in to the room with the source and already have an idea of the best two or three Interrogation Approaches that would be most effective. If not, the interrogator can determine the best approach strategies during the rapport building in the Approach Phase. (I will cover all of the existing Interrogation Approaches in subsequent articles.)

The face to face assessment takes place during what is called the Approach Phase. This phase can be the most important part of an interrogation. The overall success of all the technical questioning (science) that occurs after this first phase depends on the success of the Approach Phase (art), and the ability of the interrogator to take extreme care to establish the conditions of control and rapport with the source that start to develop the source’s willingness to communicate truthfully.

The main objective of the Approach Phase is for the interrogator to establish a relationship with the source that will result in accurate and reliable information in response to the interrogator’s questions. The interrogator will start to carefully test the interrogation approaches, adopting a persona that the Planning and Preparation Phase and professional experience has told the interrogator would be most effective in establishing rapport.

Upon entering the room, initial contact with the source should be conducted in a business like fashion. Exchange greetings and introduce yourself. Trying to establish a relaxed atmosphere will help in initial rapport building.

A skilled interrogator must have the emotional intelligence necessary to adopt an appropriate persona with the source. This could mean showing outward respect to a child molester, rapist or murderer, while internally feeling disgust and rage, which the interrogator will have to skillfully keep under control. Let go of it. Remember, the ultimate goal is to gain information from the source of legal and investigative value, which takes place by initially building rapport.

As the interrogator starts to build rapport with the source, and appraises verbal and non-verbal indicators of the source, the stage is being set for the effective identification and execution of interrogation approaches targeted to the source’s psychology and state of mind which will keep the psychological initiative with the interrogator. This is the “art” of the interrogator.

In my next article I will discuss more about the rapport building process, how executing this process allows the interrogator to develop a verbal and nonverbal baseline for subsequent deception detection, and how to initiate the interrogation approach strategies which will give the interrogator the psychological initiative.

*The US Department of Defense and the US Congress have decided to make this material open to the public. Only open source material is referenced. No classified or confidential information will be revealed in any of my articles.

Copyright S. R. Mogck, appearing at

Follow S. R. Mock on Twitter @SRAlsultani


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