The big interview – Dr. Ivar Fahsing, Davidhorn


In order to rebuild trust with law enforcement, Dr. Ivar Fahsing, on behalf of Davidhorn is heading up an advisory board as he seeks to set a new global standard for investigations to level up justice, as Security on Screen discovers

Why do we need a new standard for global investigative interviewing?

Failure to record interrogations, combined with manipulative interrogation techniques, has led to miscarriages of justice in many countries – and as a consequence lack of trust in law enforcement in many countries across the globe.

The Investigative Interview sets the stage for any investigation. It tells a story of the crime and gives context to all other evidence. The object might be guilty or innocent, a victim or a perpetrator. All facts need a story in order to create meaning and only humans create these stories. How to best capture these stories is essential in any investigation – criminal or not.                                                 

Without reliable information from those who played a central role in the crime (i.e. suspects), or those who have witnessed an essential aspect of the commission of a crime, other sources of material, such as CCTV images or DNA, may have less value.

Human brains have limited processing capacity and try to save their energy by finding the quickest possible solutions to situations or problems. That’s the background for what we call cognitive bias or shortcuts in our brains. The brain will try to solve problems even if it can’t, hence the shortcuts are triggered by our brain automatically making quick and dirty judgments and assessments.

They are influenced by our background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes and cultural context. It is not just about gender, ethnicity or other visible diversity characteristics – height, body weight, names, and many other things can also trigger a range of different shortcuts.

Unsurprisingly, these cognitive shortcuts will have a significant influence on our attitudes, judgements and behaviours, especially towards other people.

As investigators, if we’re unaware of how human brains often work under pressure, premature presumptions of guilt can easily become a treacherous trap even for the most honest and law abiding detective. The worst case scenario is of course putting innocent people in jail and making the real perpetrators walk free.

Because of the nature of the criminal justice system these errors often go undetected – especially by those who created them in the first place. We tend to cling to and defend our own judgements especially if they are challenged by people we characterise as enemies.

Each case of neglect and wrongful convictions contribute to a distrust in the system and erode community trust in law enforcement. All in all we need a new standard in order to ensure that police and legal systems maintain a high standard in investigative interviews as it is key for justice and trust in law enforcement around the globe.

How is this standard different from the existing ways of performing investigative interviewing or even interrogation?  

Despite the significance of interviewing, many jurisdictions lack positive guidance and training on how to conduct professional and reliable interviews. Interviewing is a much more complex and demanding task than previously understood.

In the absence of research-based methods, police interviews remain unsystematic and ad hoc. The lack of sound guidance, combined with an inherit presumption of guilt, has led to torture, mistreatment, the presumption of guilt, and confession-driven practices.

This can have severe consequences: Criminal justice systems that are geared toward obtaining confessional evidence increase the risk of ill-treatment during police interviews. Research has found that guilt presumption and confirmation bias are the underlying causes of errors of justice, including wrongful convictions.

This contributes to undermining the rule of law, accountable government, and the respect for fundamental rights. Investigative interviewing is designed to reduce the risk of these fundamental errors and also ensure that actual perpetrators do not escape justice.            

An effective and efficient chain of justice requires updated knowledge, transparency and precision from all actors involved – from the first 911-call to the last court ruling.                                

Investigative interviewing reads like a checklist of “how to do” a fair trial according to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 14. A growing number of international, regional and national actors have welcomed the the Méndez Principles as the first-ever specific and human rights-based alternative to coercive interrogation methods.

The Principles constitutes a crucial reference framework to enable a global shift away from confession-driven interrogation techniques to interviews that enable better human rights protection and adhere to procedural safeguards.

The Méndez Principles will help State authorities to comply with their duty to protect the life and dignity of their citizens during questioning and custody.  The use of reliable documentation tools and procedures is core in this regard.

On the back of this, video recording of all police interviews is now becoming mandatory and required by law in an increasing number of countries. Likewise is the importance of investing in scientifically based interview training recognised by an increasing number of chief police officers.  They simply seem to understand that not making such investments in this is far more costly in the long run.

Who is behind this new global standard?

Dr. Fahsing has assisted in gathering a unique group of leading international researchers and police leaders who will assist the Davidhorn in the development of this new, global certification scheme for questioning and interviewing.

For almost 40 years, Davidhorn has supplied patented technology to British and Norwegian police. The technology enables audio and video recording of investigative interviews according to the legislation in these countries and secures the integrity of both the process and the evidence.

Files cannot be tampered with or compromised without leaving tracks, and the recording ensures improved interview processes and the ability to train, give feedback and optimise interview skills within law enforcement. The training and development framework that Davidhorn will deliver rests on the Méndez Principles.

Through this collaboration, the Advisory board will ensure that all training provided by Davidhorn will offer research-based training to police officers and other professions that depend on obtaining accurate and reliable information from human sources. We are set out to develop a new global certification scheme – a first-ever gold standard for interviews and questioning.

Why is this coming now?

Firstly, with the introduction of the Mendez Principles and the UN Sustainability principles focusing on justice, legislation across the globe is changing. There is a huge need in providing training and certification to build better widespread knowledge and competence amongst all actors involved.

Secondly, with the rise of artificial intelligence, high-quality manipulation of video and audio is easily accessible for the general public. The need for competence and trustworthy evidence is bigger than ever before.

There is enormous interest in this work. We see that more and more countries are following suit and requesting training in this new approach to investigation and interviewing. Many have now understood that this not only helps them with more reliable information and a fairer legal process.

It is also about how to build professionalism and increase trust in the apparatus of power. Over time, the development will be able to help transform broken  relationships between the state and its citizens. As said by the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud: The first requisite of civilisation –  is that of justice. 


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