Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Interviewing Witnesses

From: John E. Reid & Associates, Inc.
A witness is anyone who possesses direct information pertinent to an investigation. Developing accurate and complete information from witnesses is critical to any criminal investigation. This information may determine whether or not a crime was committed, the direction in which an investigation goes and the identification of the perpetrator of a crime.
Sometimes witnesses are forthcoming and fully cooperative, other times they are reluctant to get involved and occasionally they are deceitful in an effort to protect themselves, an accomplice or loved one. There are many factors that may influence the accuracy of a witness' statement including trauma, passage of time, prejudices, influences of drugs or alcohol, age, and psychological/ physiological disorders. Finally, witnesses are interviewed in a number of different settings, ranging from a totally uncontrolled setting (outside a bank that was just robbed) to a semi-controlled environment (the witness' home or office) or in a controlled setting (the investigator's office).
With all these variables, obviously there is no single best technique to develop information from a witness; there is, however, a single underlying principle that does apply. This web tip will present a number of different concepts relating to witness interviews which investigators need to appropriately apply.
  1. How can an investigator identify a good witness within a group of people?
  2. Three individuals witnessed the same incident, what important procedure should the investigator use when interviewing these witnesses?
  3. When, during an interview, should the investigator elicit personal information from a witness?
  4. What are some simple techniques the investigator can use to enhance a witness' memory?

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