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

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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
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 14 Dec 2020


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