Trending Topics

How a blank videotape can yield a confession

Here’s a tip that involves a creative use of videotape as a means of getting a legitimate confession from a suspect. It comes from a Street Survival Newsline interview with Wisconsin Chief Mike Nordin:

“We received a report from a grocery store manager that an individual was seen committing a crime in the store. The manager had followed the individual to the parking lot and taken his license plate number. I traced the plate and called the individual, who we’ll call Ernie, at home and invited him to come in to the department.

“When I called I introduced myself and said, ‘Ernie, I’d like to have you come on down to the station to see me. I have something to discuss with you. Can you be down here in about 20 minutes?’ He never asked me what I wanted to discuss, he just said that he could make it. One of the things I’ve learned is that if someone doesn’t ask you what you’d like to talk to them about, they’re probably guilty. Ernie already knew what I wanted to discuss and he didn’t want to hear me bring it up. He was hoping against hope that I didn’t want to discuss what he’d done wrong. When they do ask, I avoid telling them by stating that the phone lines are tapped and I’d rather not discuss the matter over the telephone. Usually that works.

“When Ernie arrived at the station I had a large file folder filled with papers, which I hoped he would think was some huge investigative file we’d developed against him, and a videotape in my hands. I invited him in to my office and told him to take a seat.

“I set the video cassette, which I had labeled ‘Store Security Tape #13,’ on my desk with the label facing Ernie. When I was sure he’d read it, I quickly grabbed the tape and flipped it over as though I didn’t mean to have him see it.

“After a few introductory comments I asked, ‘Ernie, was this something you planned for a long time or was it a spur of the moment thing?’ ‘Spur of the moment,’ he replied. Case closed.

“After I got all the details I asked Ernie what made him decide to tell me everything. He said, ‘I couldn’t very well deny it. You have it on videotape.’ Just as I had planned, he assumed the videotape contained footage of him committing the crime in the store. In truth, it was a blank tape.”

Scott Buhrmaster is Vice President of Training and Editorial for, which was awarded the “Quill & Badge Award” for Excellence in Journalism by the International Association of Police Unions. He is also the Publisher of Police Marksman magazine and has served as Contributing Editor for Law Officer magazine. He has been a member of the law enforcement training community since 1989, when he began work as Director of Research with Calibre Press, Inc., producers of The Street Survival Seminar.

Throughout his tenure at Calibre, Buhrmaster was involved with virtually every aspect of the company’s officer survival training efforts, from the planning, creation and marketing of the organization’s award-winning textbooks and videos to developing and securing training content for the Seminar. In 1995, he was named Director of the Calibre Press Street Survival Newsline®, an Internet-based officer survival training service he helped found. In less than five years, Newsline readership grew from 25 officers to more than 250,000 in 26 countries, making it one of the most popular training vehicles in law enforcement history. His efforts now focus on providing training and information to the nearly 400,000 officers worldwide who visit every month.

Prior to joining Police1, Buhrmaster, who also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Force Science Research Center and stands as an active member of the American Society for Law Enforcement Training and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, was President of The Buhrmaster Consulting Group, an international consulting practice for the law enforcement training sector and the publishing industry. Scott may be reached at