Skip to content

Book Review: Investigative Interviewing: Psychology, Method and Practice

The primary goal of any investigative interview is to arrive at the most accurate version of what happened in an incident�the factual details of who did what to whom, where, when, why, and how. Investigative Interviewing by Eugene Ferraro, CPP, PCI, raises the bar for the security literature with his ethical approach. This valuable book is destined for all security practitioners' bookshelves�both seasoned investigators and those just beginning their careers. Ferraro adeptly equips the reader with the essential knowledge and skills to reach this a priori investigative interviewing goal, and the book successfully achieves its primary purpose.

Based on sound investigative theory, the book is grounded in the actual practice and process of interviewing psychology and methods, which come from the author's years of professional experience. To this end, the book also succeeds in reinforcing the 21st century mantra we need to remember in dealing with the current information overload: Control the few controllables, and manage the remaining manageables.

The underlying message of the book is to control all the factors that impede or facilitate the truthful admission of an investigative interview, and then manage the rest of the process to remove as much of the natural uncertainty as possible, given time, legal, resource, and other practical constraints.

The pluses of this book are many. There are refreshingly new solutions to older problems and challenges in the practical "Tips" and "Traps" throughout the book. For example, the reader can learn the qualitative differences between admissions and confessions and the proper sequence of investigating and interviewing. Other successful elements include the distinctions between public and private sector investigative milieus; a guide to meeting legal challenges and avoiding litigation; and the specific techniques and variety of methods to assure a high success rate in interviewing and communication of results. Also enlightening are the important section on managing deception detection, the many useful appendices, a well-organized index and bibliography, and an encouraging look at the future of investigative interviewing.

One element missing from this book is coverage of cognitive biases that keep interviewers from discovering the real truth. (An excellent treatment of the subject can be found in The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by former CIA Assistant Director Richards Heuer.)

Overall this is a successful book. Readers can journey into the male�volent minds of those who are intent in doing harm in this dangerous world, where truth is getting more complicated and muddled, but there is more urgency to uncover it.

Reviewer: William S. Cottringer, Ph.D., CHS-III (Certified in Homeland Security, Level III) is executive vice president of Puget Sound Security and an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Northwest University. He is also an expert security and corrections witness, sport psychologist, and success coach. He has been an active member of ASIS since 1990. Cottringer has published nine books and more than 300 professional articles. His most recent book is Reality Repair.