Often suspects deny their involvement by blaming a younger brother or friend for the chats on their computer. On one interview tape, the suspect used a library computer to chat but claimed a "big black dude, named Cee" operated his computer when he went to the bathroom. It's also common for suspects to deny knowing the individual's age, Durkin adds. They might say, "What do you mean she's 14? I thought she was 41."
An investigator privy to the information in the chats may find it tough to overlook this deceit. But they need to stay neutral, cautions Durkin, who shares the experiences of a retired investigator who spent 20 years in law enforcement. When this investigator had enough, he would say, "I'm hottgurl_14. You were chatting with me for the last two months" and suspects quickly invoked their right for an attorney.
"There are better ways to do it," Durkin says.
The reviewed tapes include everything from a high-profile national case involving a coroner/physician's impropriety to repeat offenders. While all the investigators on the tapes seemed highly professional, Durkin notes he was most impressed with an investigator who always wore street clothes to the interview and came across very nonjudgmental. He built a rapport with the individual by saying things like, "I have a computer and I have some stuff on it that my wife probably wouldn't want me looking at" or "I'm not judging you, man. I am just trying to get your end of the story so we can get this cleared up." He opened doors for discussion by easing the suspect's discomfort. The kinship this investigator expressed in one tape prompted the suspect, when asked if he had any images of young girls on his computer to answer, "Well not of 9- or 10-year-olds or anything like that." He basically admitted to having photos of older teens. A subsequent search of the suspect's computer turned up child porn.
All sex crimes begin with a fantasy but for investigators to get inside the suspect's head and prove their guilt, they need to act more friend then foe. "There's no doubt this stuff can be disturbing," Durkin explains. "But we need to teach officers to suppress those feelings in interviews and interrogations."
Sexual predators weave a tangled web in Internet chats and police interviews, and investigators can become tangled in its sticky threads. The knowledge imparted by these Enforcement Expo speakers can help free investigators to make these cases.