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Examination of Police Officers' Notes of Interviews with Alleged Child Abuse Victims

NCJ Number
International Journal of Police Science & Management Volume: 11 Issue: 4 Dated: Winter 2009 Pages: 505-515
Rita Cauchi; Martine B. Powell
Date Published
11 pages
This Australian study critically examined police officers' notes of interviews with alleged child abuse victims contained in 89 police files on such cases in a single police agency.
One of the major criticisms derived from this study is the failure of the police notes of child disclosure interviews to describe the interview process or techniques used. A substantial percentage of the disclosure interviews were not accessible, and of those provided, it was clear that questioning did not cease once the witness disclosed the offense. In addition, there was often a failure to distinguish between the content of the interviewer's question and the children's responses. Although the accuracy of disclosure interview notes could not be determined, analysis of the interview logs and casebooks provided sufficient examples to show that the interviewer's notes were susceptible to error. The findings suggest that although the accessibility of the interviewer's notes is important to legal professionals and memory experts, their importance is not recognized by police organizations. Further, the absence of these notes in some of the case filed may be intentional, because they can potentially be used to dispute the truthfulness of responses reported in the electronically recorded interview. Professionals must be assured that child witnesses are interviewed in a way that maximizes the quality, detail, and accuracy of their account. Such assurance depends on accurate documentation of both the questions and answers in these interviews. Much needs to be done to ensure that a child's initial disclosure of abuse is accurately and comprehensively recorded prior to the electronically recorded interview. The quality of investigators' notes could be improved with better training. Collectively, the analyses of the case files focused on the accessibility, completeness, and accuracy of the notes, as well as the degree to which the interviewers' questions and witnesses' answers were differentiated. 3 tables, 2 notes, and 27 references