Initial Investigation: Tricks of the Trade Part 2

Interviewing suspects

Scott MacLean

Exit Strategy

Communication between partners is essential to a successful operation. Since communication can be verbal and non-verbal, covert communications is often required. Let me give you a scenario: You enter a first party residence, within your state guidelines, and it is obvious that your target is not there. Your partner takes one of the occupants to the kitchen to interview them, while you remain in the living room doing an interview with the other occupant. Your interviewee tells you everything you need to know in order to locate the defendant, and you need to communicate this to your partner quickly. You can’t yell to him/her “We gotta go, I know right where he is!” There must be a means of communicating that it is time to leave, right now, with a sense of urgency. We use a code word or phrase, something like this: “Hey man, I am hungry, we aren’t getting anywhere here, let’s go to McDonald’s.” Because we have already established our code word, McDonald’s, my partner now knows to stop interviewing, it is time to leave, without letting his person know that we have been clued in. We have to get to the defendant’s current location before somebody changes their mind, and gives him a heads-up call.

Human Nature

People are basically good by nature and how you treat them determines how they respond to you. Notice in the scenario above, we discussed interviewing people, not interrogating them. There is a distinct and not so subtle difference between the two, and can determine your success or failure. It is important to remember that the defendant’s family are not the criminal, and although aware of their loved one’s nefarious ways, don’t tolerate being disrespected. When doing your field work, consider calling the indemnitor or other knowledgeable party and ask them for an appointment at the time and place of their choosing. Believe me when I tell you they do not expect this respect, especially when the bondsman that hired you has called and tried to talk his defendant in, so he doesn’t have to pay you! The bondsman has probably threatened and talked down to them, so prepare for an earful! Let them speak their peace, it gives them a chance to purge and you the opportunity to listen, a skill we all need to practice more of. Once they have had their say, have empathy for them, explain that you are the problem solver, let the bondsman be the bad guy. I always explain that regardless of how mean and nasty the bondsman was, he can and will do everything that he threatened to do, if we don’t work together to solve the problem. There are multiple reasons for this approach, but they all take advantage of a person’s inherent desire to do the right thing. By allowing them to choose the time and location, you afford them the freedom to tell you information that they cannot, or will not, tell you in front of their family. This process has been very successful, and when it has failed, I have no issue with introducing them to my evil twin brother, because I gave them a solution previously.


The neatest thing to me about this craft is that we are always learning. We teach each other all of the time, whether or not we realize it. There might be behaviors, superstitions, or habits that are foreign to your culture. Diversify. We have been very successful with multi-ethnic and gendered teams. Grow thick skin. Playing good cop, bad cop, isn’t just for cops! Don’t lie, it gives the people you are attempting to work with an excuse to do the same to you. Be polite, but firm. Learn verbal Judo, the louder they get, the quieter you get. Do not be intimidated by expected behaviors. Lastly, remember that this is not personal, it is business! Be safe and go get paid!