Improving eyewitness memory in police call centre interviews

Pescod Laura, Rachel Wilcock, Rebecca Milne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When people witness or are victims of crime they call the police emergency number. This phone call is likely to be the first opportunity for the witness to recall what happened and this is important because the witnesses’ memory is likely to be the most detailed, accurate, and uncontaminated, and therefore, potentially of great use in any subsequent investigation. At present, the call handling interview is very much driven by the call handler and consists of a series of specific closed ‘WH’ questions such as who, what, when, and where questions to elicit key information. This type of question is known to result in information that is less detailed and accurate compared to information elicited via a more open style of questioning. This study therefore sought to test the effectiveness of a new report everything open interview based on the cognitive interview. The new protocol was found to elicit significantly more correct information compared to interviews based on current procedure and a control interview condition. However, the new report everything interview also took significantly longer than the other interview conditions. The findings are discussed in light of real world demands on call handlers and theory relating to witness memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-306
Issue number3
Early online date28 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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