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Critical Analysis of Police Interview Techniques

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Science and Administration Volume: 15 Issue: 3 Dated: (September 1987) Pages: 177-185
Date Published
9 pages
A descriptive analysis was conducted of 11 tape-recorded interviews with eyewitnesses covering a wide range of crimes investigated by 8 experienced Florida detectives in 1985.
Analysis indicated that there was little uniformity in structure among interviews, most questions were very direct and elicited brief responses, and little or no assistance was given to enhance witnesses' memory. Additional problems included interrupting eyewitnesses' descriptions, excessive use of a question-answer format, inappropriate sequencing of questions, distractions, lack of followup on potential leads, and underemphasis of auditory cues. Other problematic techniques included negative phrasing, nonneutral wording, inappropriate language, and staccato style of questioning. None of the detectives had received formal training in interviewing techniques, and practical constraints of police field work also contributed to problems. It is suggested that interviewing techniques should promote focused retrieval, make questions compatible with the eyewitnesses' mental representations, minimize distractions, tailor language to the individual, and followup on interpretive comments. Efforts should also be made to reduce witness anxiety. 12 references.

Date Published: January 1, 1987