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Essentially, there are two types of interviews conducted by law enforcement officers, structured (formal) and non-structured (informal) interviews.
The structured interview is what we think of as a classic interview setting and is certainly what is depicted on television and the movies as the most prevalent form of interviewing in police work. The media has depicted this scenario so often that most people assume that all interviews are conducted at police stations.
Usually (on television), the interview takes place in a police station interrogation room and at least two officers (usually Detectives) take turns grilling some hapless suspect until he / she finally gives in, usually out of exhaustion.
Most interview and interrogation training in the past has dealt with developing techniques dealing with the structured interview process, including a detailed examination of such topics as the correct placement of furniture in an interrogation room, the most psychologically advantageous color to paint the walls, the height of chairs, etc.
Although structured interviews do indeed take place every day in agencies throughout the world, they represent only a tiny fraction of the total number of interviews being conducted by law enforcement.
The overwhelming majority of citizen contacts and interviews are conducted on the street by front line law enforcement officers in non-structured settings.
Think about the very nature of police work; for every formal interview being conducted in a police station by Detectives, how many officers are out there on the street talking with suspicions, witnesses and victims? How many interviews are impromptu, versus carefully planned out?
If the vast majority of interviews are being conducted in non-structured settings, we should direct the upgrading of our interviewing techniques towards the informal interview.
The beauty of non-confrontational interviewing methods is that the concept works equally well in structured and non-structured settings.
Non-confrontational interviewing is designed to work quickly, to work in an emotionally charged atmosphere, to work in the presence of outside distractions and to work without any memorization of techniques on the part of the interviewer.
Old-style confrontational interviewing is on the way out and is being replaced by the more effective, narrative-style non-confrontational interview method.