Investigative Psychology – Interview with the Experts

We talk about Investigative Psychology with Professor Angelo Zappalà, director of the Investigative Psychology Division, and Chiara Cemmi, psychologist of the Division.


Investigative Psychology – Interview with the Experts

We talk about Investigative Psychology with Professor Angelo Zappalà, director of the Investigative Psychology Division, and Chiara Cemmi, psychologist of the Division.

Investigative Psychology is the application of psychology to investigations “and studies how to find, evaluate and use investigative information effectivel, as well as how to support the actions and decisions of the police force and the inferences that can be drawn from criminal activity” (L. ROSSI, A. ZAPPALÀ, “Che cos’è la psicologia investigative”).

Professor Angelo Zappalà, Psychologist, Psychotherapist with a specialty in Clinical Criminology and a Doctorate in Psychology from Abo Akademy University, Turku, Finland, is an ordinary member of the SITCC (Italian Society of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy), member of the AIP (Italian Association of Psychology) and the Italian Society of Criminology.

Prof. Zappalà, during his professional career, has expanded his skills both in the clinical and in the forensic fields, to the point of becoming not only a trainer, but also a director of several important training centers at an international level. He is Director of the School of Specialization of Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy, that operates in the clinical and forensic fields, as well as being Coordinator of the Working Group on Terrorism, Radicalization and Extremistic Violence of the Order of Psychologists of Piedmont and trainer for the newly formed investigative psychology division of the State Police.

In addition, he designed together with Prof. Pekka Santtila, the world's first investigative interview simulator to alleged abused minors. Finally, he created in 2016, and since then directs, the Criminology Festival (, of which Dogma S.p.A. is one of the most important sponsors.

In addition to all the aforementioned offices, prof. Zappalà is also the founder and Director of the Investigative Psychology Division of Dogma S.p.A., which has now been active within the agency for almost seven years.

Within the Investigation Psychology Division, alongside prof. Zappalà, psychologist and, shortly, psychotherapist Chiara Cemmi has been in the division for five years.

Trained by the CBT Academy, she is a member of the EMDR Italy (Eye Movement Desensibilization and Reprocessing) association and is enabled to use the Stalking Risk Profile tool.

Where did the idea or need to develop a section of the agency specializing in investigative psychology come from?

Zappalà: “The Investigation Psychology Division was born from the sharing of a common project,with Dimitri Russo, managing director of Dogma S.p.A.

On the other hand, I was interested in the possibility of using some techniques deriving purely from psychological and criminological studies in the investigation activities.

The interest was to directly observe, where possible and within the limits of the usable, a series of information and practices applied in other States and relating to the protection of citizens' rights. Furthermore, we were both intrigued by the possibility of directly observing and possibly being able to develop management protocols for specific and specific cases, so as to be able to offer the agency's clients not only a series of, so to speak, "classic" investigative services, but also a different angle, sometimes better, or even able to provide the client with a broader and more diversified point of view.

On the other hand, with Dimitri, it had been noticed that sometimes, the particular type of clients and the sensibility of the situations and contexts that they often brought during the meetings in the agency, could make the presence of personnel trained on an psychological level useful and an added value.

In particular, what are the areas and themes that the Psychology Division has deepened and developed over the years?

Zappalà: “In the first phase of the story of this Division we dealt with the collection of informative materials and scientific texts as well as a study, above all, of what are the types of requests that could mainly be supported or managed at least in part from the Division itself.

Therefore, we started focusing our attention on macro issues, such as the development of skills and techniques of investigative interview and crime analysis.

At the same time, alongside and literally entering into the classic management of cases requested by agency clients, we were able to start imagining a series of much more specific services aimed at satisfying their needs and, where possible, at giving added value to the findings that emerged from the investigations".

Cemmi: “I reconnect to what has already been said by prof. Zappala. The Investigative Psychology Division first of all has psychologists inside. Therefore, it is a very useful and instructive state to be able, at least in a first phase, to learn about and get to the heart of a classic investigation. Everything that can be understood both as possible with us is possible to respond to different customer requests, and to go to look for that part of the request that investigative in itself cannot remove and see if it was instead possible for us, with our training, try to give an answer as relevant and useful as possible to the client.

This has above all made it possible to conduct an interview with both the knowledge learned as psychologists and the general investigative context in mind. In addition to this, our specific professionalism has been equally useful in the management of some cases, especially where the stories that are described in the agency touch suffering and sensitive parts of customers' private lives".

In particular, when and how does the Investigative Psychology Division support the main activities of the agency?

Cemmi: “As I mentioned above, a certainly not insignificant first support lies precisely in the management of some clients, in the method of accessing their history and, sometimes, in the method of sharing the results. The presence of the Investigation Psychology Division has allowed us to manage certain issues, which touch the most suffering part of people's lives, with greater attention dictated precisely by the skills of the psychological subject.

Obviously our contribution is not limited to this. Thanks to all the previous development of collection and study of scientific material in different themes, we have exploited the services of the Division itself, which have added courage and added value to the activities carried out, for example, to the Intelligence Division. 

To date, in fact, in collaboration with the Intelligence Analysts, we carry out the profiling of main figures with the aim of providing our clients with a broader picture to better carry out their assessments. "

Zappalà: "At the same time, we also included a series of activities aimed at individual protection, especially in contexts of receiving anonymous material and especially threat analysis".

Cemmi: “In fact, our Division is particularly specialized in analyzing the threat in various areas. We intervene in cases where we are both recipients of anonymous material, helping our clients to better define a possible range of suspects and also to better protect themselves. 

In order to be able to do this, we have acquired skills and material related not only from the psychological, but also from the sociological and linguistic studies. Above all, we intervene in cases of stalking: we can help customers understand and understand whether or not they are in risky situations and, if necessary, help them to protect themselves better. 

In addition, we support throughout the collection and conservation phase of the persecutory material, useful when the person decides to file a lawsuit. "

One last question, which, in your experience, is the most suitable training path?

Zappalà: “Here the answer may be different. First of all, if the desire is to work within an investigative agency, certainly an interest in a series of information related to the general field of investigations cannot be missing. If the desire is that instead of a large part of the Investigative Psychology Division, a master's degree in psychology certainly cannot be missing, moreover it is necessary to be a drive and a particular interest in at least  one of the sectors of which we have previously discussed. 

In this sense, I suggest reading Investigative Psychology manuals, just to understand if this type of activity is or is not of interest".

You can read more about the topic in the dedicated section. What is investigative psychology and fields of application.

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