Psychology and Law: An Empirical Perspective

By Neil Brewer; Kipling D. Williams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Investigative Interviewing

MARTINE B. POWELL

RONALD P. FISHER

REBECCA WRIGHT

Interviews are conducted at various stages of the investigative process, ranging from the initial police interview of a victim, witness, or suspect to an in-court interview in front of a judge or other decision maker. Interviews conducted during the initial phase of the police investigation are usually the most critical in determining whether a criminal case is solved (Fisher, Geiselman, & Raymond, 1987), especially when there is little or no physical evidence and only one witness to guide the investigation. At this point in the investigation, there is considerable potential to extract extensive, accurate information, because the event is still fresh and, hence, relatively accessible in the witnesses' memory. Furthermore, witnesses have had little time to think about the event, so their immediate perceptions are likely to be pristine, untainted by later influences. Properly conducted interviews may thus advance the police investigation immeasurably by eliciting thorough, accurate records of the crime details. On the other hand, poorly conducted interviews have the potential to distort the witnesses' memories and contaminate the entire investigative process. For this reason, initial police interviews with vulnerable witnesses (e.g., children or people with intellectual disabilities) are often recorded on videotape and presented as evidence-in-chief during the trial (Davies, Wilson, Mitchell, & Milsom, 1995).

Eliciting reliable and detailed information from a person about an alleged offense is a unique and complex process in which both the interviewer and interviewee play integral roles. Ultimately, the quality of any forensic interview is determined by a wide range of interrelated factors, which can be conceptualized broadly as (1) factors relating to the interviewee (i.e., the physical, men

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