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Interviewing behaviors in police investigators: a field study of a current US sample

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Considerable research shows that scientifically based interviewing techniques (e.g. the Cognitive Interview) increase the quality and quantity of witness recall compared to typical police interviewing guidelines. In an effort to improve witness evidence, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recommended guidelines for conducting witness interviews that follow empirical research (Technical Working Group: Eyewitness Evidence, 1999). These guidelines were distributed to all police departments in the USA in 1999, along with a trainer's manual. The present study is the first to examine whether US police investigators adhere to these nationally published guidelines when interviewing witnesses and victims of crime. A sample of audiotaped real-world witness interviews from 26 South Florida investigators was analyzed. Results indicated that investigators rarely engage in recommended ‘positive’ interviewing techniques (e.g. rapport building or context reinstatement) while using many ‘negative’ techniques (e.g. interrupting the witness or using complex questions). Based on the data provided, it appears that national US recommendations on witness interviewing have not been translated into real-world interviewing practice by the investigators surveyed. Implications for interviewing policies are discussed.
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Keywords: Cognitive Interview; interviewing recommendations; police interviewing behavior; witness interviewing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology,Florida International University, Miami,Florida, USA 2: Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice,Central Connecticut State University, New Britain,Connecticut, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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