U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Police Detectives' Perceptions of Giving Evidence in Court

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 30 Issue: 1 Dated: 2007 Pages: 8-20
Mark R. Kebbell; Caitriona M.E. O'Kelly
Date Published
13 pages
This study examined common methods used by British attorneys when questioning police officers on the witness stand, so as to identify training issues that would prepare police officers to testify in court.
The 48 police detectives who participated in this study reported that they were satisfied with their experiences in court. They reported they were questioned by defense attorneys in a consistent manner, but were asked some questions that were difficult to understand and to answer. Many of the questions were upsetting because they were designed to distort the evidence being presented by the detective. The findings suggest a number of training issues that can assist in preparing police officers for testifying in court. Officers should be trained to handle confusing questions and questions designed to limit the officer's response. Another training topic involves dealing with inconsistencies in evidence and how it can be interpreted, as well as mistakes in evidence collection, preservation, and analysis. Ways to respond to personal attacks that pertain to the officer's competence and ethics should also be addressed in training. Future research in this area might rely less on self-reports and more on independent observation in actual trials. The questionnaire administered to the 48 detectives focused on the questioning they experienced the last time they testified in court. Topics addressed in the questionnaire were the types of questions they were asked by attorneys during cross-examination, lawyers' tactics, and what the detectives believed to be personal attacks. 3 tables and 32 references