Rapport Key to Effective Interviews and Interrogations

Detective Gary Galetta of the Rochester Police Department has been involved in investigations for 30 years. His experience has taught him that that building rapport leads to the most successful interviews and interrogations. Getting dialog going is often the most difficult task, but it leads to gathering information that is most useful in solving cases.

Interviews are for witnesses, interrogations are for suspects. In both cases, it is important to establish rapport. This can be done by finding commonalities, establishing the private nature of communications, asking open ended questions, being patient and considerate, and staying flexible while still keeping conversations on track.

Only written notes for critical details (a specific name, address or phone number) should be taken during the interview. Notes should be made immediately following. It is generally helpful to have a team of two people conduct the interview/interrogation. Where possible, the interview should be video recorded.

In closing an interview, it is important to verify the information collected is correct, possibly throwing in some errors so that it forces the person being interviewed to provide corrections, and leave the door open for more information.

Successful interviewers have the following traits:  patience (some interviews go 6-10 hours), confidence, sincerity, open mind (don’t try to prove a theory – keep conversation open to gather info), understanding of human nature/behavioral signs, flexibility, and glibness (ability to talk). It is important to be able to read physiological signs (lint picking, change in eye contact or posture) and what triggered these signs. As an example, complaining when answering a question is generally a verbal sign the person is buying time to come up with an answer. Also, it is helpful to pay attention to qualifying answers such as “couldn’t be me, I don’t own a gun”.

Positive treatment of the individual being interviewed or interrogated is a big part of building rapport. Even in situations where law enforcement must advise of rights (miranda), it can be treated positively and explained as a means to protect all parties involved.

Trickery – Officer Galetta explains that it is acceptable to use trickery, but needs to be done sparingly and with caution as it can breakdown rapport if the person being interviewed has info that contradicts the trickery.

Building rapport helps to move conversations forward. It is important to get the person being interviewed or interrogated talking, even if they are lying (can be disproved alter) and making admissions (these can lead to confessions later).

Reason formulation – to help draw out useful information, especially near the end of interviews, it may help to provide a reason formulation or present an either/or situation. This gives the person an out. They can admit to something that seemingly has a clear reason behind it.

In summary – Officer Galetta points to the following:

  • It is not easy to like someone, but building rapport is about getting to a likeable relationship.
  • “Banging the table” approach does not work.
  • It often takes long drawn out dialog to achieve the goal of getting the right information, an admission or confession. Lots of slips are made in conversations.
  • Half-truths are admissions by default.
  • Don’t miss key points as the interview takes place by thinking too far ahead.


ASIS Rochester thanks Officer Galetta for a very informative session at the October 2019 meeting.   

Vice-Chair Joe Giorgione with Detective Gary Galetta

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