During his almost 35-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI]—including more than two decades of service working as a street agent—JAMES J. WEDICK has been responsible for “interviewing” and/or “interrogating” hundreds of individuals. Whether the individuals were suspected bank robbers caught in a hailstorm of police bullets or longtime veterans of the California State Senate charged with “bribery,” Mr. WEDICK has “interrogated” or “interviewed” numerous individuals—many under difficult or trying circumstances with some “interrogations” lasting 15 to 20-hours in duration.
While many suspects have declined interviews—preferring instead to speak with an attorney—still others [because of their position or maybe circumstances] have agreed to an interview giving Mr. WEDICK hours of experience conducting interrogations.
When making contact with a suspect for an interview/interrogation, Mr. WEDICK states agents should be prepared to discuss every aspect of the investigation, as well as have a good understanding of a crime’s legal elements. Being just familiar with an investigation versus well-prepared is acceptable if you’re only looking for information, but not if you’re attempting to conduct an “interrogation.” Since most suspects can sense when an investigator is fumbling for facts, Mr. WEDICK states only well-prepared agents should attempt an interrogation. In order to conduct a successful interrogation, he says most suspects need to sense the investigator will be thorough—discussing at length an alibi or prepared to ask detailed questions—otherwise the suspect will have an eye on the clock thinking one more question and the interview will be over.
Because “lying” breeds distrust, he thinks agents should resist using the tactic. Similarly, he thinks “bluffing” suggests agents are card players—engaged in a poker game—versus law enforcement conducting an investigation. If a suspect discovers agents are “bluffing” or worse yet “lying,” he says the discovery could disrupt the interrogation with the suspect demanding an attorney. Consequently, he thinks agents should always stick to the facts. Also, he thinks treating a suspect with dignity and respect will do more to induce a suspect to cooperate than shouting and/or yelling. If a suspect cooperates, he says it’s usually because the suspect believes an agent will tell a prosecutor the suspect was helpful. But, if a suspect thinks an agent has done nothing except lie and/or bluff, he might have reason to suspect he might not be treated fairly—so he refuses to cooperate.
Attorneys seeking assistance concerning FBI related interrogations or interviews are encouraged to make contact early. Because he needs time to review police reports and/or statements, including video and/or audio tapes, Mr. WEDICK cautions against waiting till the last minute. Using the FBI’s two operating manuals and/or legal handbook, Mr. WEDICK can readily provide an appropriate professional opinion and/or “expert” testimony concerning agents conducting an interview and/or interrogation and whether agents followed excepted FBI Policies & Procedures.