LP Magazine

JUL-AUG 2019

LP magazine publishes articles for loss prevention, asset protection, and retail professionals covering shrinkage, investigations, shoplifting, internal theft, fraud, technology, best practices, and career development.

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The Impact of Implicit Bias in Professional Investigations K nowledge of how to apply professional presence is of paramount concern in criminal investigations. The experienced investigator understands the importance of word selection and uses language deliberately and carefully. A jury will view the terminology used in the investigator's written and spoken testimony as an indicator of the quality and accuracy of the investigation. Keywords relating to the conversation that has taken place and, importantly, references to the person who answered the investigator's questions will be perceived to represent bias or objectivity. This case study explores how the presence of two sets of words—interview versus interrogate and subject versus suspect—will affect the perception of the public at large and, thereby, a jury. Because unconscious bias is present in society, investigators must observe the importance of their word choices as a critical factor in the establishment of their professional presence. Words that Maintain a Professional Presence Understanding and applying industry-specific terminology is critical to the construction of professional presence. In the US, the legal process operates as an "adversarial system," meaning the investigator and the individual on trial have directly opposing and incompatible positions relative to the outcome of criminal conviction. The ultimate objective of an investigator is to find the truth, and thus, the terminology used to describe that process must not be tainted by biased language. Interview versus Interrogation. In the field of investigation, the terms "interview" and "interrogation" are often used interchangeably. Due to negative connotations associated with the latter, conversations that explore the guilt or innocence of the person being questioned must be positioned as "interviews" rather than "interrogations." The word "interrogate" is associated with coercive techniques as often depicted through dramatic scenes shown in theaters and on television. To exemplify this, one can execute a simple search engine query, independently using the two words in association with a popular movie. One can test this theory by Googling the phrase "Sicario 2 interrogation." The first page of results showed a plethora of violent terms, including "kill," "rape," and "torture," with the top result linking a movie clip where a villainous subject is questioned by an equally depraved US government operative. The subject's family members are murdered to compel the subject to reveal information necessary to the conclusion of the investigation. Further, the term "extrajudicial" appears in one comment, imputing interrogation as illegal as judged by the standards of the US legal system. A subsequent Google search of "Sicario 2 interview," revealed a first page of search results containing photos of smiling actors who were merely being questioned about the movie. The results presented no derogatory terms, with the closest connotation posited as "moral complexity." As Google seeks to prioritize search results based on relevance and contemporary use, this is a short case study that immediately establishes the importance of careful word selection. As a practical application, imagine an investigator being called to the witness stand to testify on a written report that details an admission of wrongdoing by the individual on trial. The defense attorney asks a couple of easy questions that confirm authorship such as, "Did you write this report?" and "Did you select the words used in this document, or are they part of a standard that you'd use to write about anyone you've spoken to?" After receiving confirmation, the attorney begins to try to erode the jury's confidence in the investigation, inferring that harsh techniques have been employed to obtain an involuntary admission. "When you started talking with Mr. Jones, did you view it as an 'interrogation,' or did that come later? 24 JULY–AUGUST 2019 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM By Mike Bowers, CFI Bowers is vice president of asset protection for Northgate Gonzalez Markets based in Anaheim, California. Before going to Northgate in 2013, he spent thirteen years with Harris Teeter grocery stores in multiple loss prevention roles from single store to director. Early in his career, Bowers held store-level roles with Hannaford Bros., Home Depot, and Lowe's. He can be reached at mike.bowers@northgatemarkets.com. CASE STUDY The ultimate objective of an investigator is to find the truth, and thus, the terminology used to describe that process must not be tainted by biased language.

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