Statement Analysis®

Study Conducted by Lt. Tracy Harpster

In 2006, Lt. Tracy Harpster with the Moraine Ohio Police Division conducted a study of 911 homicide calls. The purpose of the study was to examine the linguistic attributes of the 911 calls to see if there were any indicators of guilt or innocence. Lt. Harpster examined 100 homicide calls made by fifty innocent individuals and fifty guilty individuals. An innocent individual was defined as someone who had no involvement with the homicide. A guilty individual was defined as someone who committed the homicide or had direct involvement in the crime. The study revealed several interesting factors that relate to Statement Analysis.

The "Huh Factor"

One area the study focused on was the "Huh Factor." This was defined as the caller responding to a dispatcher's question with the comment "Huh?" "What?" or "Do what?" This would be an indication the caller is not tracking his responses. He is acting as if he has been caught off guard.

"911, what is your emergency?"
"I just came home and my wife has fallen down the stairs, she's hurt bad and she's not breathing!"
"How many stairs did she fall down?"

Although the caller may not know the exact number of stairs his wife had fallen down he should be able to give the dispatcher an estimate. His response indicates the caller was confused and was not paying attention to the dispatcher's question. The investigation revealed the caller had killed his wife and made up the story about her falling down the stairs. When asked a specific question about his fabricated story the caller was not able to immediately answer the question so he relied on the "huh factor."

It was hypothesized that callers using this tactic would be guilty of being involved in the homicide. This variable appeared in 12% of the 911 calls. Of that percentage, 91 % of the callers were guilty and 9 % were innocent.

In Statement Analysis, we find that when a subject answers a question with any type of question it means he was asked a sensitive question. The subject does this to stall for time so he can think about his answer. The interviewer should recognize this tactic and try to determine why the question is so sensitive. In the 911 study, this was a strong indication of guilt. In Statement Analysis, this sensitivity is an indication of guilt or that the subject is withholding some information.

"Did you launder any money?"
"Did I launder any money? No."

The subject answers the question with "No." However, he first answered the question with a question. He does this by repeating the question asked of him. This is a typical way of stalling for time. In this case, it turned out the subject did not launder any money but he knew money was being laundered. Because he was thinking whether or not he should reveal this information, this caused him to answer the question with a question and not give an immediate "No."

Resistance In Answering

Another variable the 911 study looked at was the "Resistance to Answer Indicator." This was defined as the 911 caller's refusal to answer the dispatcher's relevant question. In one example, the caller reported that his girlfriend needed medical attention.

"Did something happen to her; was this more than just an argument?"
"That's all I'm trying to report."

The caller does not answer the dispatcher's question regarding how the injuries occurred. When the officers arrived the girlfriend was dead. The boyfriend was eventually convicted of causing her death.

It was theorized that a caller who resisted in answering the dispatcher's relevant questions would be guilty of the committing the crime. The study showed that this variable appeared in 26 percent of the 911 calls. Of that number, 100% of the callers were guilty.

In Statement Analysis, if a person does not answer the specific question the person is withholding information. While this may seem to be an obvious conclusion the problem is the use of this tactic often goes unnoticed. The subject will give an answer to the question asked of him but he will not answer the specific question.

"Did you take the money?"
"I would never do that."

The question, "Did you take the money?" requires a "yes" or "no" answer. While the subject did give an answer he did not state "yes" or "no." Therefore, he has not answered the specific question. His resistance in answering the specific question means he is withholding information. In this case, the information is that he did take the money. His answer, "I would never do that" is not a denial.

In the 911 study, not answering a question was a 100% indicator of guilt. In Statement Analysis, this is a 100% indicator the person is withholding information. This information may be that he is guilty or that he has information which would help in the investigation.

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