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Example:

The police started [...] the little kid.

In this case, I think interrogating is a little too severe. I thought of the word questioning but I think this can cause confusion (could mean they are questioning his motives).

Any suggestions?

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2  
Without more context, I'd only offer questioned or probed. If you're concerned about confusion, then add more to the sentence, a la: The police started questioning the little kid about [the thing they're questioning him about] –  jimsug May 1 at 6:15
    
How little is this kid? Older or younger than seven for example? –  Mari-Lou A May 1 at 9:19
    
Saying little kid is sort of redundant. Child seems better. –  RyeɃreḁd May 1 at 12:28
1  
@RyeɃreḁd Depends on your point of view. My son would tell you there's a huge difference between a little kid and a big kid, and he definitely counts himself among the latter. –  Geobits May 1 at 12:58

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

How about quiz?

Quiz

verb (used with object), quizzed, quiz·zing.

5.to examine or test (a student or class) informally by questions.

6.to question closely: The police quizzed several suspects.

7.Chiefly British . to make fun of; ridicule; mock; chaff.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/quiz

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They would refer to their questioning as an 'interview'/'formal interview' or the term 'inquiry'.

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I think that asking questions may fit , if you are referring to a normal attitude not to scare the little kid.

The police started asking the kid a few questions!

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I think there are more possibilities if you rephrase the statement.

Specifically:

The police have been speaking with a little boy/girl

And you could qualify the severity or lack thereof with additional information, such as:

...regarding the incident.
...to ascertain the sequence of events.
...to get a clear picture of what has happened.
...to try to understand the incident.

Or more generally:

The police are following several lines of inquiry, which include a little boy/girl aged x
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To "grill" is a common slang, implying a serious level of questioning but without menacing overtones.

"They took him down to the station and grilled him about the robbery."

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1  
Grilling does have menacing overtones. Menacing enough to not be appropriate for "the little kid". –  Chenmunka May 1 at 9:47
    
@Chenmunka That's not my understanding of the term in this context and I would have thought it appropriate. But that's the problem with slang, of course: without a formal definition it's open to personal interpretation. –  Matt Thrower May 1 at 10:06

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