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Banks officer teaches final lessons in Bangladesh

Hillsboro Sgt. Dave White returns home from three-week sojourn


Banks resident Dave White, a sergeant with the Hillsboro Police Department, was in Bangladesh for nearly three weeks training officers there in the ways of modern policing. While abroad he wrote almost-daily vignettes on a Facebook page, “Suspenders in Bangladesh: The Adventures of a Redneck Abroad.”

The News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune have been following his experiences. White returned home the day before Thanksgiving. Here are a few final installments:

Nov. 26

I have arrived home safely. It was a long journey home. I do have to say thank you to the Immigration and Customs officer in Washington who spoke with me after I was randomly selected for inspection. He asked where I had been and where I was going. My mind was mush and I could not make sense of what I was saying therefore he had no idea either. I had not had a conversation with someone, though I had been around thousands of people, for over two days.

I apologized and explained that it had been a long trip. He handed me back my passport and said a heartfelt “Welcome home.” That really felt good.

Nov. 27

I apologize for taking so long to write again. I found myself taking fewer pictures and writing less as my departure day approached. I wanted to cram in as much as I could before I left and by the time I made it back to my room I was too tired to type. As far as the photos go, I have learned that the problem with photos are that you rely on them too much for your memories. For me, I remember things better when I don’t take photos. I can’t remember much of the Grand Canyon but I have a lot of pictures to show that I have been there. So I took a lot in and I don’t have many photos to show for it.

Class was a lot more fun this week. We moved away from crime-scene investigation to interview and interrogation. There is a big difference between interviews and interrogations. Interviews are low key, stress-avoiding discussions, where stories are told and facts learned. Interrogations are calling the suspect out, pointing out lies and using common sense in the attempt to obtain a confession. Both of these are done without physical coercion in the U.S.

This was at first a difficult concept to teach some of the old veterans of the CID, or Criminal Investigation Division. One inspector told me that here in class they will say, “Yes. We will try that.” But they will continue to give the “third degree” to someone and then that person will confess. That’s how it works in Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh and they know that works.

I listened and spoke again of a 20-percent-or-less conviction rate. I asked him to try it, honestly try it. I asked him to try the method, using his experience in dealing with people, what we have taught about body language, what we have taught about deceptive answers, what we have taught about interrogation without the third degree, using a tape recorder of the entire interview, just a few times ... please. If it doesn’t work, he could always go back to the third degree and an anemic conviction rate, but give it a try.

I know it works and I know it works on people from other cultures who live in Hillsboro. It’s hard to say no when someone is passionate, believing and pleading. He gave the smile and a nod you would give a child (I know better but I will do it your way). He will try it. If he tries it more than once or twice it will work.

If he records the interview, even the most corrupt magistrate would have a hard time throwing out a taped confession with a continuous recording of the interview (they do have an active media here, the magistrate would have some explaining to do).

Changing interview and interrogation methods one grizzled, big-city detective at a time. I know I reached more than one. Actually out of 25 inspectors in the class, I would be willing to bet only six or seven won’t try the methods. Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTOS - A running joke while Hillsboro Police Sgt. Dave White has been teaching in Bangladesh is the number of students who fall asleep in his class. In this set-up photo, White himself pretends to sleep so his students can strike gotcha poses around him. What can I say. It happens to the best of us, White joked on Facebook.

I stressed the importance of evidence to corroborate the confession. I stressed that one or two indications of untruthfulness does not make a person a liar. I went over many failed interviews and interrogations I have done. I explained that ego and experience can be the great downfall of what could have been a great interview and confession. It is a method, a building of rapport, a methodical dismantling of self defense (emotional) barriers, to get near the truth. If rushed, it can backfire. If you go to interrogation too early, you can lose a confession, and maybe your case.

I told them about a homicide suspect I interviewed. I watched him waiting in the interview room. He was an emotional wreck, eyes darting, body twitching, looking for escape paths that were not there, then the sign ... he crossed himself. He was ready for confession.

My experience taught me he would talk early, no need for an interview, straight to interrogation. Ego large and in charge, this was going to be easy. I walked in, told him he was being recorded, read him his rights (which he understood) and told him he was there because we knew he was involved in a murder with his brother and another person and the murder was over a robbery of the victim. In less than 20 seconds he invoked his right to an attorney, sucking his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around his legs and shaking violently he cried out (similar to the wail of a siren, starting low and building with voice and tremor): “I’m scared. I need an attorney!”

Uh, wow .... wasn’t expecting that one. The weakest link in the case had just been destroyed by an over-confident cop (me). I had gone away from the plan. I had skipped half of what I needed to do. A dime-a-dozen theft case can be done without a whole lot of interview, but a homicide? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

There was a lot more self-hate talk than that. My ego was bumped and bruised, I was very humbled by my own arrogance. It turned out OK in the end. We caught the other two and I helped interview the primary suspect. I went back to basics and we got a complete confession, an honest confession (in the end) to aggravated murder. Still a reminder, like using ingredients to make a dish, you best start with the basics before going to the final product.

They liked the story. I enjoy telling it so they can learn from my mistakes. I like recoverable mistakes both as a supervisor and as an investigator. They teach you more than doing things right each time (I don’t like them in homicide cases however).

The students really liked the class. They were engaged, asking questions and writing a lot. Sleepy was unusually attentive. I used videos from Det. Brady’s interviews and Det. Ganete’s interviews. Two different styles, but both are effective.

It was really neat to teach a class via PowerPoint, a PowerPoint I had not used before, and to use our detectives’ interviews to pull it all together. They instinctively knew the information I gave them, like you know how far a ball will travel based on the crack of the bat, but it had not been laid out to them in a scientific manner. Teaching old coppers new tricks is very rewarding.

I would like to be there for their first seasoned Bengali murder suspect who is interviewed using the methods taught. He will be expecting a long hard dose of the third degree, but won’t receive it. I am sure that is going to put him in a tailspin.

They will receive a confession via internal confusion. Expectations of the suspect not met. I bet he might even ask for the third degree just so he can get to where he thinks things should be ... it should be fun to watch.

Nov. 28

Bangladesh fit me well. I was comfortable with being there and the feeling was mutual. It felt like a home away from home. The people were welcoming and understanding of the never-been-out-of-North-America Oregonian. I think the people there are a lot like Oregonians. They are open, friendly, and try to make you feel at home...

Some of the best of the Portland Police Bureau represented us since 2011 in Bangladesh. There are very few new police officers in Bangladesh who do not know of Oregon. PPB started the education of Bangladesh officers in human rights and community policing and we get to carry on the torch. (For those that read this and think that PPB would not be a good representative for Oregon law enforcement I would say you are a media-believing fool, pound sand. They did a great job in Bangladesh. They were the first to represent our state and our values, and they did an incredible job. ICITAP was wise in selecting them as they have had an incredible impact on policing in Bangladesh. The PPB officers also support a school and an orphanage there.)...

I can watch National Geographic, The Amazing Race, and other shows in third world countries but until I experienced it... I really had no idea, and the idea I did have was wrong. Through good fortune, I was born in America. I now have a deep understanding of why people in poor countries want to come to the US. We are the land of opportunity. Yes we have warts, leeches, and issues but compared to some (most) places in the world, the U.S.A. is the promised land. I have always been proud to be an American, now I feel lucky to be an American as well.

Dec. 1

I will miss the Bengali people and their accepting culture. I wish I could go back ... It was an experience of a lifetime, one that cannot be described. For this redneck from Oregon, I found a people half way around the earth that I made a deep connection with. Who’d a thunk it?

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