Analyzing 911 calls is a great way for beginning analysts to practice the principles they’ve learned in formal training. The 911 call is, in some respects, the first interview in a case—sometimes with the perpetrator. Applying the principles of deception detection to a 911 call can often yield much more information than the caller would like us to know; in some cases, it can show with surprising clarity who is responsible for the emergency being reported.
Markers in a 911 Call
We look to see specific things in a call to dispatch. These are considered “expected language.”
· What the caller’s priority is, based upon what they say or ask for first; we expect that they will ask for help for the victim. Choosing not to ask for help for the victim immediately upon being given the opportunity is a red flag that the caller may have guilty knowledge of a crime pertaining to the emergency they are calling about.
· What the caller’s linguistic disposition is toward the victim. We expect the caller to view the victim in a positive—or at the very least, a neutral—way.
If the caller doesn’t ask for help for the victim, or if it is apparent that the caller views the victim needing help in a negative way, this falls under unexpected language, and we must note it.
Principles in Play
As with any analysis, we want to apply the known principles of Statement Analysis to our work in a consistent, logical manner. We want to see the truth, and therefore we separate out our own emotions and do not bring outside information in that might contaminate the analysis.
· We have absolute faith in the subject’s truthfulness. People mean what they say, and so we will choose to believe them. Conversely, if they do not say something, we cannot say it for them. We go only by the words the subject uses, and we must see them convince us of their guilt.
· If we have a conclusion with multiple markers proving us correct, but even one marker that disproves our conclusion, then we made a mistake earlier in the analysis and must go back and find the error. ALL markers in the analysis must agree for us to reach a conclusion.
There are many other principles, but we will keep the above in mind as we begin the analysis.
The Darlie Router Case
Darlie Routier called 911 on 6 June 1996 to report an emergency. The original language is in bold.
911 Operator: Rowlett 911, what is your emergency?
It’s important to note here that the operator immediately offers Darlie the opportunity to use her own words to describe what is wrong. Darlie will, with the words she chooses, tell us 1) what is most important to her in that moment, 2) what she most wants the dispatcher to know, and 3) how she views the people involved in the emergency she is reporting.
Darlie Routier: …somebody came here…they broke in…
DR: …they just stabbed me and my children…
DR: they just stabbed me and my kids…my little boys.
When given the opportunity to speak freely, Darlie tells us the following:
Somebody came here – A gender neutral characterization, possibly used to conceal identity. In addition, Darlie makes a point of telling the dispatcher that the “somebody” came here; for some reason, it’s important to Darlie that the dispatcher believe the person was not already in the home, but came here.
It’s also notable that before explaining what the emergency is, Darlie focuses on the idea that “someone” came to her house, they broke in. This is a flag; it shows that Darlie’s priority, above all else on this call, was announcing that someone came there, and they broke in—and these concepts are separate for Darlie.
They just stabbed me and my children – The word “they” continues the concealment of identity and possibly gender, and is a plural word as opposed to “somebody,” which is singular. The change is important to note.
In addition, she now says that “they” stabbed her and her children. You’ll note a crucial thing in her words:
Out of the information she has given the dispatcher at this point, her children, who have been stabbed and are bleeding, are the very last priority to her, even behind herself.
This is what I mean by unexpected language. This is a suspicious thing to say for a loving mother whose priority is expected to be her children.
Another principle of Statement Analysis is that of unnecessary language. If information is included that seems unnecessary, it’s twice as sensitive. Remember—the subject is free to choose any words in their vocabulary, any order/priority, any information. They chose to include the “unnecessary” information—and that means it is important to them.
In addition, the information is not unnecessary; it only appears that way to those of us reading or listening to the statements being made.
Darlie adds what appears to be unnecessary information in her beginning statements. By saying “someone came here,” she is being seemingly redundant. Obviously, for someone to have stabbed her and her children, they would need to be there. In other words, it’s assumed that whoever stabbed them was in the house, and had “come here.” There would be no need for Darlie to state this.
Change in Language = Change in Perception
She then states that “they broke in.” While “someone” is singular, “they” is plural. Pronouns are something that we all not only instinctively understand, but use in a consistent manner. We would not use “she” and “him” while referring to the same person. We would not use “mine” and “hers” to refer to the same thing. Darlie shifting from “someone” to “they” is also shifting from referring to one person, to multiple people.
A change in language always means a change in reality. If you are telling someone you were pulled over by a police officer and mention that the officer walked up to your car, but then mention that you had to step out of the vehicle, you’ve changed your language from “car” to “vehicle” due to parroting the language of the police officer, and viewing your car as a vehicle because of the change in situation.
The same holds true here, and anytime we see a change of perception, we need to ask why it changed. The answer is found in the location and context of that point in the statement. We cannot look elsewhere in the statement—or outside of it—to answer why the change in reality occurred.
We’ll dig into this more deeply in future articles, and continue analyzing this statement. Does Darlie Routier have guilty knowledge of what happened? She is currently serving time for murdering her children…but did she do it? Her language will tell us.
If you’d like to learn deception analysis, feel free to contact me. Training courses via live webinar or in person are available.