New criminology study shows interviewing immediately after a traumatic event event can aid a police officer's memory retention
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
A new report released by Criminologists Geoff Alpert, Louise Porter and Justin Ready may challenge the previous understanding of a police officer's ability to accurately recall a traumatic event after a shooting.
According to Tom Jackman's Washington Post article, the leading Force Science Institute interview expert, Bill Lewinski insists, “a recovery period of at least 48 hours before being interviewed in depth," is required. Alpert, Porter and Ready's new study, however, implies the opposite.
Does this mean Lewinski's post trauma witness interview policies are due for a reevaluation? Maybe. Maybe not. Not surprising. "Lewinski criticized the use of multiple-choice questions in the study to gauge accuracy of memory and levels of stress, which could be better done with heart and pulse monitors. He said using trained cognitive interviewers would be a more realistic way to replicate how an officer would respond in a police interview. He also noted that the study did not consider that many officers have worked extremely long hours by the time of a shooting or post-event interview, which harms their cognitive abilities."
"Alpert, a University of South Carolina professor who studies high-risk police behavior, said the policy of waiting to question officers was “based on philosophy, not data.”
He further defended his study and dismissed Lewinski's by adding that delaying creates an issue of “Do you remember because you were told or because it happened?”"
The new study took place in Australia and involved "87 veteran police officers, some interviewed immediately after active-shooter training and some two days after the training, could start to change that thinking." The study, a live active shooter simulation, took place in an abandoned building and the average police officer age was 42. It was not based on actual traumatic events, however.
Also worth pointing out: Lewinsky's policy of waiting is supported and enforced by a lot of jurisdictions and police unions in the United States so undoing it would undoubtedly involve a lot of red tape even if subsequent scientific studies reinforced the conclusions of Alpert's team.
With so many former and retired police officers in the private investigator industry it is important to be aware that witness interview and witness testimony protocols used in training and on the job are not set in stone and could, in fact, be updated or revised based on Alpert's new criminology research.
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