Thursday, November 8, 2012

Analyzing Statements for Deception

Illustration of a suspect under a magnifying glass.

Law enforcement officers from across Texas learned a new investigative technique to better analyze statements by victims, witnesses and suspects.

Officers from municipal departments, school districts and college campuses participated in the one day training on Forensic Statement Analysis presented by Richard Whitehead, a 30-year veteran of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and Baytown Police Department. He provided tips on how to detect deception and to identify hidden information in a person’s written or spoken statements. The session was part of special programs offered by the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas.

“It’s just another tool for their investigative toolbox,” said Whitehead. “It makes their job easier. It makes the interview much more productive.”

Richard Whitehead
Richard Whitehead
Unlike handwriting analysis which examines the characteristics of writing, forensic statement analysis dissects the written or spoken word for linguistic signals. To avoid the editing of statements, Whitehead suggests that statements should be handwritten by the victim, witness or suspect with a pen or transcribed verbatim from a recording. The analysis begins by establishing a normal pattern of writing and then looking for deviations. Therefore, the statement should not only include recollections from the specific criminal event, but also information on what happened during the rest of the day.

“When we try and deceive, we chose our words differently, and it leaks out onto the page,” said Whitehead. “Everybody edits and they say what they think is important. Most people will not lie directly, but will leave out important facts.”

Research has been done in the fields of language, psychology and deception detection to identify linguistic signals used in forensic statement analysis. These signals include lack of conviction, extraneous statements, order of appearance, verbs, pronouns, changes in language or word choice, the use of editing phrases and time. Many of these techniques can be used not only in police statements, but in those given to the media. Statements should be analyzed before interviews take place and should be used to develop questions using the suspect’s word against them in an effort to get a confession.. . . read more

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