Imagine you are training a group of newly recruited police officers in witness/ victim interviewing techniques. Suggest what advice you would recommend, in terms of appropriate techniques of interviewing and give reasons for your choice.
Training a group of newly recruited police officers in witness/victim interviewing techniques is very important in dealing with policing duties. Perception and Memory plays a big role in such training for interviewing witness/ victim. Retrieving information and the other interviewing technique such as questioning style are also dominant in any interview with witness/victim. Applying such techniques appropriately or inappropriately in various interviews will be possibly affected police officers to obtain accurate and reliable information from witness/victim.
Perception means the way in which we interpret information entering our sense organs. The process of perception is to try to make sense of the input after sensory organs take in information. Perception can affect each witness/victim's provided information whether is reliable or accurate.
The first thing the newly recruited police officer should understand the nature of perception to avoid any misjudgment happened. If such police officer understands the nature of perception totally, they can determine whether the witness/victim seems to express inaccuracies and biases in what they have seen or heard. One of characteristic in perception the new police officer has to be aware of is "Selectivity in perception". Attitudes, prejudice and stereotypes in perception can affect the reliability of the provided information.
Each witness/victim has their own point of view toward what they have experienced in the scene. Training should delivery a message to fresh police officer to avoid any prejudice and stereotypes occurred in witness/victim information that can affect the consequence of the prosecution. Most of the witness/victim has tendency to be selective in perception about what they have seen in the scene. For example, most of the witness/victim seem to provide information about the action of the robbery performed rather than what appearance the robbery are.
Therefore, police officers should use the other techniques of interviewing to recall their memory and to reduce such witness/victim stress during the interview. Forgetting is always happened during interview when witness/victim cannot retrieve a piece of information from memory. Retrieval cues are the key to help people recall information that they could not retrieve on their own. The following is some techniques which the newly recruited police officers should be known.
State of the witness/victim is very important during the interview. Newly recruited police officer should be aware of quality of recall from their memories being under the influenced of the state of the witness/victim. For example, witness/ victim who is under influence of alcohol, cannabis and other drugs can affect the reliability level of their own recall. If police officer neglect of the current state of the witness/victim before start of interview, the information police officer received will be lack of reliable and be unfair to court of justice.
Stress levels of the witness is another factor which has an effect on witness memory. Most of the witness feels stressful while facing police officer in any investigation. For example, some of the witness is very afraid of facing the court after providing information to police investigation. In the training, we should instruct the police officer how to reduce the stress level of witness.
At first, police officer needs to encourage the witness to provide information without interruption. Police officer should adopt an active listening style that show their interest on what the witness is saying. Appreciation is also expressed by police officer about their contribution is valued. In this case, the above action can motivate the witness to help police officer further. On the other hand, if the interviewee is one of the victims who has been harmed, the officer should spend some time establishing a rapport with the person.
Communicating empathy will help the witness more comfortable to provide information. Patience is the other attitude that is very helpful to establish a good relationship between the interviewing officer and victim because the victim is reluctant to recall such terrible memories which traumatize the victim deeply. We should instruct police officer not push the victim too hard and let the victim feel that police officer is helping them to solve their problem. If witness/ victim's stress is gone, the quantity of recalling their memory is also increased to the degree of reliability.
The other interviewing technique such as question style is one of the main topic in training the newly recruited police officer. Open-ended questions and closed questions play an important role in interview with witness/victim. Open-end questions can minimize the risk that the interviewer will impose his or her view of what happened on the interviewee.
Open-end questions are preferable to be used because applying open-end questions in the interview can makes the information provided by witness/victim to be more detail narration. Closed questions are the second best type of question using in interviewing witness/victim. It can allow investigator to control the interview and minimizes irrelevant information. But such question style can decrease the witness/victim concentration and will be resulted in less recall.
Police officer should be taught to use such question style in different situation when facing different state of witness/victim. For example, if the witness/victim is talkative, we need to use open-end questions because they will provide the full story about the scene of incident as much as they can. If the witness/victim is traumatized by what they had seen and experienced, respectively, police office should use closed questions to control the interview right in the track as to recall their memories easily and to reduce the stress during the interview.
The other appropriate interview technique is The Cognitive interview Technique. The newly recruited police officers ought to understand the use of the cognitive interview Technique. This concept is introduced from both cognitive and social psychology and attempts to provide police officers with a range of skills and techniques to help witnesses/victim remember the details about an incident.
The first technique we have to introduce to newly recruited officer is focused concentration. The interviewer should encourage the witness/victim to concentrate on the task in hand. This can ensure that there are no distractions from the outsiders. It can lead the witness/victim to recall their memories more accurate with details.
The second technique is multiple retrieval attempts which is entirely appropriate for witnesses who are experiencing a temporary difficulty in recalling memories. Interviewer should not let witness/victim to give up recalling the memories about the incident. Police officers try to recall the witness/victim from a slightly different angle. For example, one of the witnesses forgets which direction the robbery escaped. In this case, if the witness cannot recall at the first time, police officer need to recommend the witness to try harder by verbal encouragement. The third technique is varied retrieval.
Each witness/victim will tell their story according to their own perspective and in chronological order. In the training, we should teach the newly recruited police officer to ask witness/victim in a different order because asking witnesses for a second recall in reverse order seem to obtain more detail information compared to previous recall. More witnesses police officer interview with, more different perspective information police officers obtain.
There are some inappropriate interview technique is hypnosis. The use of hypnosis is to recall the details about the incident from their memory system. If applying such techniques on witness, such witness cannot distinguish original memories between the result of suggestion or comments during the hypnotic interview and the information obtained without aid of hypnosis.
It can make the given evidence by witness unreliable in court. In some murdering case, the use of hypnosis is inappropriate to be applied on the witness when the case is related to two suspects. Supposed that the two suspects have the same heights, the same colour of the clothes and two's body are all back to the witness.
The witness is very hard to determine who is the murderer although hypnosis is applied. It is because witness has a question mark in their memory system about the murderer. If the witness provide the information about suspect without deliberation, it will be unfair to the innocent who is suspected.
On the other hand, it is very hard to ensure whether the witness is under hypnosis or not. The evidence the witness provided seems not too reliable in helping police works. The use of hypnosis is inappropriate applying on the victim. In some serious case such as rape and murdering attempt those are happened on the victim, it is very hard to lead the victim into hypnotic status because hypnosis can cause the victim to recall the terrible experience.
Such interviewing technique cannot help police work thoroughly and then scare the victim to say the details about the incident happened on the victim. Finally, Training about interviewing witness/victim is substantial to newly recruited police officer and also the veteran police officer. It can help police to work more effective and to be fair in the court of justice.