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What Makes a Good Investigative Interviewer of Children? A Comparison of Police Officers' and Experts' Perceptions

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 30 Issue: 1 Dated: 2007 Pages: 21-31
Rebecca Wright; Martine B. Powell
Date Published
11 pages
Twenty-three police officers from 3 Australian States were interviewed to determine their views on their role in interviewing children, and their views were compared to those of child eyewitness memory experts.
The findings indicate the need for more quality control in police child interviews based in collaboration with experts in child development and memory as well as legal professionals. Both the officers and the eyewitness memory experts emphasized the importance of the interviewer's personal attributes in developing trust and rapport with the child being interviewed. Being relaxed, empathetic, and supportive with the child were considered critical in obtaining information from the child about events at issue in child abuse cases. The officers also mentioned that an effective interview should provide admissible evidence relevant to the legal issues in the case. Officers indicated a good interview would elicit evidence sufficient for a successful prosecution. The officers seemed unsure about how best to obtain information relevant to a case. Some of the officers mentioned a lack of supervision in their interviews with children, such that there was little monitoring of performance and feedback. In addition to sharing the officers' emphasis on establishing a bond of trust between the interviewer and the child, child eyewitness memory experts focused on the importance of asking open-ended questions. The officers failed to mention this as a critical part of interviewing. All of the 23 police officers interviewed worked in child abuse units, which were responsible for responding to complaints of suspected abuse. Twelve of the officers were women. In the indepth interviews, officers were asked about their experiences in interviewing children and their opinions on the characteristics and techniques of an effective interviewer of children. 39 references