‘He was just your typical average guy’: examining how person descriptions are elicited by frontline police officers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Person descriptions often lack the level of detail necessary to assist in the apprehension of a perpetrator. To date, it is not clear how person descriptions are obtained by frontline police officers. Worldwide, many police forces now use body worn video (BWV), which provides a unique opportunity to examine how frontline police officers gather person descriptions from witnesses. We examined how person descriptions (N = 207) were elicited by frontline police officers, with a particular focus on the types of questions used. BWV of 81 interactions involving 45 frontline police officers and 141 witnesses were analysed. Person descriptions were obtained using inappropriate questions 50.54% of the time, with leading questions being the most commonly used (44.84%). Appropriate questions (i.e. open questions) led to more information being provided (cf. inappropriate questions), including more fine- and coarse- grain details. Implications for the training of frontline police officers are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-525
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Volume35
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • body worn video
  • eyewitness memory
  • investigative interviewing
  • person descriptions
  • police

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