Is it interrogation or interviewing? why words matter

By Gary Patzer May 1, 2023, 1:56 PM

Table of Contents

  • Investigative Interviewing: the Art of Finding The Truth
  • Investigative Interviewing Techniques in Detail
  • Interrogation: The Pressure Cooker Approach for Confession Extraction
  • An Analysis of Both Interrogation & Investigative Interviewing
  • The PEACE Investigative Interviewing Framework : Balancing the Power



In the field of law enforcement, we often use the terms “interrogation” and “investigative interviewing” interchangeably, when in fact, they are very different approaches to questioning techniques.


In this post, we explore key differences between both approaches, how they are implemented and potential consequences on the effectiveness of your interview and investigation depending on the approach you choose.





Investigative Interviewing: the Art of Finding The Truth


Investigative interviewing can be described as the Sherlock Holmes of questioning methods: a non-accusatory approach designed to elicit accurate, trustworthy details from witnesses, victims and suspects without coercion or intimidation.


The objective of the interview is to get to the truth; not necessarily to hunt for a confession. This means that instead of pressure tactics, investigative interviewers instead rely on building rapport, active listening techniques and open-ended questions that allow respondents to provide thorough responses.



Investigative Interviewing Techniques in Detail


Imagine an investigative interviewer's toolkit as being filled with different techniques that could aid them during an interview.  This includes techniques and tools such as:


  • Cognitive Interviewing: a technique to assist the interviewee recall events & details in question by mentally recreating the context in which they occurred
  • Conversation management: an approach that is designed to provide a natural but controlled exchange between the interviewer and interviewee. The focus is on allowing information to flow which aides in the memory recall process.
  • Active listening: the interviewer’s objective is to speak less and encourage the interviewee to speak more. Active listening includes paraphrasing, summarizing and clarifying to ensure they have understood and gathered the information correctly.
  • Rapport building: is based on the importance of creating a comfortable environment to encourage open communication. This applies in suspect, in addition to victim and witness interviews.


The PEACE Investigative Interview framework, considered worldwide as best practise, is a framework that incorporates many of tools interviewers require within their interview in a structured and ethical approach.

PEACE stands for the stages of the investigative interview process:

  • Planning & preparation
  • Engage & explain
  • Account, clarification and challenge
  • Closure
  • Evaluate




Interrogation: The Pressure Cooker Approach for Confession Extraction


Interrogation, on the other hand, acts like a pressure cooker: its purpose is to extract confessions from suspects believed to be guilty by using psychological manipulation and pressure tactics against them.


Interrogation can unintentionally result in false confessions or incorrect information because it frequently uses psychological manipulation, pressure, and intimidation.


Interrogation is primarily suspect focused in it’s nature, considering the type of techniques employed which would have no place within a victim or witness interview.

This eliminates a very large component of an investigation where information and an opportunity to obtain evidence maybe held.

Unfortunately, interrogation may produce false confessions or inaccurate information which cannot be relied upon.

This can alter the credibility of the investigation in addition to compromising ethical considerations & public trust.



Here’s an analysis of both interrogation & investigative interviewing:



Investigative Interviewing





Primary Objective

Gather accurate and reliable information

Obtain a confession from a suspect believed to be guilty


Encourages rapport-building and active listening

Often employs psychological pressure and manipulation

Questioning Style

Open-ended questions and allowing interviewees to speak freely

Controlled, leading, and closed-ended questions

Ethical Considerations

Focuses on human rights, transparency, and ethical behavior

Risk of human rights violations and false confessions

Role of Interviewer

Facilitator, listener, rapport-builder

Dominant, controlling, manipulative

Suitability for Different Roles

Applicable to witnesses, victims, and suspects

Primarily focused on suspects

Source: FIS®




PEACE: Balancing the Power


Undoubtedly, law enforcement tip the scales in the balance of power when it comes to investigations and interviews.


The question is, should that power be used to coerce, manipulate and pressurize a confession?


Or is the duty of an interviewer to use ethical means to arrive at the truth? Which would be in line with for investigations and information gathering.


Understanding the difference  and being able to distinguish between interrogation  and investigative interviewing is a crucial step to answering these questions.


Law enforcement professionals can gather evidence, rely on factual information to establish the truth while upholding moral standards.

This will foster public trust by adopting best practices in investigative interviewing like the PEACE investigative Interviewing framework.



FIS International are specialist trainers and consultants in PEACE investigative interviewing. 

You can find information on:



Author: Gary Patzer



Gary Patzer is FIS Operations Manager & Senior Trainer. Gary recently retired as a Sergeant with Loveland Police Department in Loveland Colorado to join FIS® International. He was in Law Enforcement Officer for over 33 years.