Examining Rapport Based Approaches with High Value Suspects

Surmon-Bohr, Frances
(2021) Examining Rapport Based Approaches with High Value Suspects. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Terrorism poses a serious threat to nations around the world. The questioning of terrorism suspects is a critical aspect to investigating and preventing further attacks. Research into suspect interviewing has grown exponentially over the past few decades. One of the most consistent findings is the significance of a human connection between the interviewer and suspect; the ability to build rapport is regarded as the foundation of such interviews. However, it is still unclear exactly how interviewers can effectively build rapport and what impact this has on suspect engagement and the disclosure of evidentially useful information (interview yield). Many researchers have focused on trying to identify specific ‘off-the-peg’ tactics to aid rapport-building. In contrast, Alison and Alison (2012) developed the Observing Rapport Based Interpersonal Techniques (ORBIT) framework for examining rapport in investigative interviews, with a focus on ‘macro’ level Humanistic approaches that consider the overall atmosphere of an interaction, rather than the minutiae. This thesis utilises the ORBIT framework to gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of how interviewers can build rapport with, and elicit information from, terrorism suspects in investigative interviews. It contributes to the literature on interviewing/interrogation by examining a field data set of real interviews with terrorism suspects in the U.K, and, for the first time in this area, takes a multi-level approach to analysis to understand the impact of interviewer behaviour, whilst accounting for variance attributed to other external factors. Content analysis, using the ORBIT coding framework, was conducted to assign numeric values to the interview data. The first study (Chapter 3) examined 804 interview tapes of law enforcement interviews with 75 suspects in the U.K. The second study (Chapter 4) was based on analysis of 266 interview tapes with 31 suspects. The key findings from these studies (Chapter 3 and 4) are i) a suspect’s level of engagement in an interview directly affects the amount of information they disclose; ii) an interviewer’s behaviour can directly influence a suspect’s level of engagement - both positively and negatively; iii) having the right ‘mindset’ - that is compassionate and in line with Humanistic principles, is far more important than the use of specific tactics to build rapport; and iv) the positive effects of rapport-building on suspect engagement can be seen across a series of interviews on a given day, but, rapport building efforts need to be resumed and maintained at the start of a new day of interviewing. The implications of these findings for practitioners, trainers and researchers are discussed in Chapter 6. This thesis also presents the development and validation of a new tool for measuring investigative interviewers’ rapport-based skill level (the ‘Rapport-Based Inventory for Investigative Interviewers’, RBI) (Chapter 5). This study emerged from a requirement from the U.K. National Counter Terrorism (CT) training network, who requested a screening tool that could assess trainees’ interviewing performance. Two studies were conducted to test the instrument’s reliability and validity. First, the RBI was administered to a large sample of police interviewers (n=140) and students (n=84). Next, it was administered to a sample of police interviewers taking part in an interviewer training course to assess whether RBI scores were associated with interviewer performance during mock interviews (N=60). This multi-study chapter describes basic RBI psychometric properties including scoring reliability, factor structure, internal consistency, and concurrent validity. Taken together, the findings suggest that the RBI is a promising tool to assess investigative interviewers’ rapport-based skill level. It has practical applications for both interviewer training and in the selection of proficient interviewers in the field.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2021 15:19
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2021 07:30
DOI: 10.17638/03118129
  • Alison, Laurence
  • Maskell, Simon
  • Christiansen, Paul
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3118129