Interrogation Scenes

21:43 Sun 03 Dec 2006. Updated: 13:27 08 Apr 2009
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I re-read Powers today (and it’s still simply fantastic), and then read the interview that Oeming and Bendis did for the fiftieth issue. In it, Bendis mentions that he loves interrogation scenes, that they’re a lot of fun because you get to lock two characters in a room and see what happens.

I thought about that, and it sounds convincing. I started thinking about trying an interrogation scene myself to see how it worked out, and then remembered how I usually react to interrogation scenes: I find them unrealistic.

Not always. Bendis does them well. But the problem I have with most of them, assuming we’re talking about a typical cop-detainee scene, is: why would the suspect say anything? I am convinced that if I were undergoing police interrogation, I would shut the fuck up until my lawyer arrived. What could possibly be gained by doing otherwise? The whole setup makes it clear that they’re trying to pin something on you (more charitably, you could frame that as “they’re trying to see if you’re guilty”, but it adds up to the same thing). So you’re going to what, outwit them? Which includes trying to convince them you’re innocent by telling them the truth. So what if it’s the truth? The true tale you tell might unluckily include small details that they draw the wrong conclusions from, and that doesn’t lead anywhere good for you.

It’s an adversarial contest. Their role is to try to fit you in as the perpetrator, then either discard you or charge you. Your role is to not get charged—and if giving them nothing results in their charging you, they you were going to get charged anyway. There are exceptions (a rock-solid alibi might be something you could let them know about), but I suspect that waiting for your lawyer is almost always a better idea than talking.

I may be underestimating the pull of authority figures—that is, when you’re in there with police officers, your socialization will attempt to compel you to work for their approval, and will make you very frightened of earning their disapproval. And in the grip of those drives, isn’t everyone likely to want to communicate? Nevertheless, it just seems to me that smart characters will conclude that quiet lawyer-waiting is the way to go.

I should try writing some of them to see if I can work with this.

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