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Field Study of Adult Witness Interviewing Practices in a Canadian Police Organization

NCJ Number
Legal and Criminological Psychology Volume: 16 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2011 Pages: 160-172
Brent Snook; Kathy Keating
Date Published
February 2011
13 pages
This study investigated witness interviewing practices used by a police organization in Atlantic Canada.
Analysis of the study results showed that closed-ended and probing questions were the most commonly used form of questioning by police interviewers, while open-ended questions were used relatively infrequently. Other findings from the analysis indicate that interviewers rarely interrupted the witnesses, the 80-20 talking rule was violated in 89 percent of the interviews, and police interviewers often requested free narratives from the interviewees. Data for this study came from 90 witness interviews conducted by a Canadian police organization. The interviews were coded for the following interview practices: types of questions asked (i.e. open-ended, probing, closed-ended, clarification, multiple, leading, opinion/statement, and re-asked), the number of interruptions, percentage of words spoken by interviewer, type of pre-interview instructions (consequential vs. generic), and whether or not a free narrative was requested (and when requested during the interview). The characteristics of the interviewer, interviewee, and the interview were also coded. Analysis of the coded interviews indicates that scientifically prescribed witness interviewing techniques are rarely used by Canadian police officers. This finding highlights the need for increased training of police officers in professional interviewing techniques. References and appendix