It seemed a trend these days for witnesses and accused person to blame law enforcement agencies for resorting to intimidation and scare tactics during the interrogation process. Sadly, these allegations somewhat overshadow the illegal wrongdoings that these perpetrators have been involved in. The irony of it all is that these allegations will only surface after they have been charged in court. Obviously, it a devious tactic to win the judges’ sympathy during trial in hope of securing a release later.
These people tarnished law enforcement bodies’ image to divert the public’s attention from the core issue and that is their involvement in corruption.
In reality, pressure and fear caused a few witnesses to make up falsehood on purpose to blind the eyes of the general public in hope that the wrong doer would be let off the hook.
This matter was acknowledged by a senior investigation officer who handles interrogation in an anti-graft law enforcement agency for the past 20 years.
Interrogating or interviewing witnesses does not involve threats and intimidation as the investigation officer would usually employ a suitable method or approach for each individual.
According to the officer, the interrogation concept that is employed by every law enforcement body here follows Britain’s M16 method as well as other Commonwealth countries which include Malaysia.
“This method was done improvised to make it acceptable to the public and the situation in the country whereby interrogation aims to instil awareness on the witnesses emotionally without involving the physical aspect.
“During the interrogation or interview process, the principle of ‘capitalizing on strength and exploiting weaknesses’ is used.
“This approach is adapted accordingly to different individuals. However, the investigator would need to do a background check on the witnesses and suspects beforehand,” he said.
He said that an earlier evaluation would be done to determine the appropriate method to persuade witnesses or whistle blowers to co-operate with the Commission.
However, problems will arise if the witness refuses to co-operate and hide facts to protect wrong-doers and offenders, he said.
“When this situation arises, the investigation officer will use a method to awaken the conscience of the witness by reminding the individual that it is an obligation to reveal information for the sake of the nation.
“During this process, the officer will try to strike similarities with the witness to encourage co-operation between both parties,” he said.
If it works, the witness may reveal precise information. However, if physical force is used, the witness may bear a grudge and there is a high possibility that he will refuse to impart accurate information.
Witnesses with vested interest who maybe involved in offences will try to deny their involvement and minimise their role in the crime by laying the blame on others.
The process of invoking the conscience of a person no longer involve physical threats these days but instead utilize psychology to influence the emotions of a witness or offender.
Emotional stress would be felt by the witness if there is guilt due to direct or indirect involvement in corruption offences.
This situation is often experienced by those who are prominent or educated but have a tendency to face emotional stress when they are placed on the same level as the investigation officer during the interview.
There are witnesses who have pre-conceived notions that information would be extracted forcibly from them when they are summoned by the authorities for an interview. This creates a false perception that they would be “tortured” by the investigation officer, when in reality, it does not happen.
Investigation Techniques Have Changed
These days, interviewing techniques for white collar offences in this country leans towards psychology methods.
Association Of Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE) President Datuk Akhbar Satar said that local law enforcement agencies currently leans towards using psychology and physiological methods when interviewing witnesses.
He said that this method is widely used in other countries such as America, Singapore and the United Kingdom where the interview session is more organised so that information could be obtained to the maximum.
“Physical method was once used when witnesses are questioned, but we have to remember that it was not applied in total but only in certain cases whereby the offender is a ‘hardcore’ criminal.
“Here, we can observe that psychology is a more successful method which has been used to break communist members’ resistance once upon a time. It was implemented to persuade the communist to surrender their firearms.
“For white colour crime and corruption cases, applying the interview technique together with the psychological method proved to be more effective since it involves those who are educated,” he said.
Akhbar also said that in circumstances whereby the people are educated, the interviewing techniques have to be enhanced, more so for criminal cases involving those who are highly educated or prominent.
Those involved in white colour crime are usually intelligent people who have an exemplary personality, he said.
“Thus, the most suitable approach to interviewing witnesses is to rattle their sensitivities and emotions. For example, relating to them how their family and loved ones would be affected by deeds.
“For witnesses involved in high profile cases, a unit of highly experienced investigating officers with the right kind of expertise will interview the witnesses,” he said.
If a witness tells a lie, the physiology and body language of the individual would indicate that.
He said those who lie or impart falsehood can be caught through the movements of their eyes during the interview session and they also have dry lips.
“This can be supported by a polygraph test whereby 98 percent of the results are accurate while the other two percent is due to the interviewers’ error.
“However, the polygraph results would not be necessarily be admissible evidence but it is useful as guidance to the investigation officers during the interview process,” he said.