Interviewing Techniques

Ironically, skinheads, especially hate-motivated skinheads, talk to anyone who will listen, including law enforcement officers. One investigator who knew little about white-supremacist ideology simply asked skinheads why they hated, what their tattoos meant, and how skinhead groups were organized. Numerous interviews and observations substantiated the initial information obtained by the investigator. On the other hand, criminally motivated skinheads are less likely to talk because they act more like criminals. Investigators should determine the motivation of skinheads when planning interview strategies. Hate-motivated skinheads have well-rehearsed answers for questions, such as “Why do you hate?” “Can’t you see what you’re doing is wrong?” “How would you like it if someone picked on you because of your race?” Skinheads answer smugly; they feel secure as skinheads. Because hate masks personal insecurities, interviewers should temporarily forego questions about why skinheads hate and strive to identify the skinheads’ personal insecurities. Interviewers should begin this probe by asking skinheads about their family relationships, which probably represent the source of the skinhead’s insecurities because a sense of who people are and where they fit in society typically develops within the family structure. Interviewers also should explore skinheads’ future plans, educational goals, and desired employment. This forces skinheads to see themselves as they really are. If forced to look at themselves, skinheads become vulnerable, less resistant to rehabilitation, and, in law enforcement settings, more likely to confess. This process could take several hours or many months depending on the resistance level of the skinhead.

This strategy proves less effective when interviewing criminally motivated skinheads because they view themselves as criminals who hate, rather than haters who commit criminal acts. More traditional interviewing strategies have proven successful with criminally motivated skinheads.

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