Promoting justice: Professionalising frontline policing with an evidence-based Structured Interview Protocol

Project Details


Evidence obtained from victims and witnesses is of critical importance to the criminal justice system. Current interview procedures for eliciting this evidence frequently fall short of best practice, and have not kept pace with theoretical developments relating to human memory. This is highly problematic as poor quality investigative interviewing leads to incomplete witness evidence at best, and unreliable evidence at worst.

Concerns over the quality of investigative interview skills is particularly acute for frontline uniformed officers who have a lack of policing experience coupled with demanding and multi-faceted work priorities. The provision of interview training for these officers is already severely limited; usually a couple of days of basic training are allocated to learning how to interact with victims and witnesses. At a time of financial austerity, when forces have been required to make savings of £2.4bn by 2015 due to a 20% cut in Home Office grants to police authorities, this situation is moving towards crisis point; the number of frontline officers is being reduced, officer workloads are increasing and there are even fewer opportunities for training. A key recommendation made by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to budget for these severe cuts highlighted the need to transform the efficiency of front line staff. The proposed research directly addresses this.

The critical challenges of falling budgets and rising expectations were central to a recent government policy conference in the UK (Policing & Justice for the 21st Century, July, 2013). The UK Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice called for 'greater innovation to maintain standards' as part of his bid to promote recent Home Office policies - 'Making the criminal justice system more efficient' (April, 2013), and 'Helping the police fight crime more effectively' (March, 2013). UK police forces are being encouraged to modernise by adopting new technology, such as bodyworn-cameras. These new initiatives are promising, and have every potential to make policing more efficient and effective by speeding up the path to justice, reducing paperwork, and enabling officers to spend more time on patrol. However, digital innovations will also expose the deficits in interviewing and interpersonal communication skills, due to increased transparency and the availability of recordings.

In light of this increasingly difficult policing context there is an urgent need for new and effective evidence-based interview procedures that complement national guidelines on the collection of evidence while also (a) supporting frontline officers, (b) increasing the speed of obtaining evidence, (c) enhancing the quality of evidence obtained, and (d) promoting the success of current and future technological implementation of digital-recording in policing contexts.

The primary aim of the project is therefore to support current and future generations of frontline officers via the development and introduction of a novel 'Structured Interview Protocol', an investigative interview protocol that will efficiently and effectively promote the conduct of ethical best practice interviews to elicit high quality evidence. The protocol will draw upon relevant memory theory and principles of memory, current psychological theory on the strategic control of memory reporting, and cutting-edge psychological developments in investigative interviewing research. It will be developed in collaboration with police-based Knowledge Exchange partners to enhance the success of digitally-recorded interviews, at the same time consolidating and improving front line officers' practice conducting interviews. The College of Policing will provide expert oversight and a quality assurance role. The Structured Interview Protocol will be scientifically validated via controlled experiments and a randomised controlled field-trial. As a whole, the research promises significant impact.
Effective start/end date26/01/1525/01/16


  • Economic and Social Research Council, UK: £18,253.00


  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Criminology
  • Forensic Psychology


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