Forensic psychology
Forensic psychology

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Forensic psychology

4.2.3 The cognitive interview in practice

In the ‘Eyewitness cognitive interview’ video you see officers from the Greater Manchester Police using elements from the cognitive interview.

The officers are interviewing Eddie, who was a witness to a staged crime involving an attack in a pub. One thing that may strike you as being very different to the types of police interviews you see in crime dramas, is that the officer does very little talking.

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Transcript

NARRATOR
Back at the police station our witnesses are in the midst of their cognitive interviews. It's up to the police teams treating this as a real crime to make sense of what they're being told. Rule one of cognitive interviewing is to let the interviewees do most of the talking.
EDDIE
They began effing and jeffing, like swearing quite forcefully.
NARRATOR
Not a problem for detective sergeant Wendy Haslem who is interviewing, or rather listening to Eddie.
EDDIE
The next thing, he got more violent.
DS CAROLE BARLOW
Well the reason we've asked him for a recall, and we don't interrupt, is so that he is using his own words and his own memory.
EDDIE
This geezer was doing all the swearing, dived on top of him.
DS CAROLE BARLOW
If we were to stop him or ask questions and stop that flow and it becomes a stop start thing, so there is no fluidity to it, and it becomes quite disjointed.
EDDIE
And somebody said 'He's bleeding, he's stabbed him'.
NARRATOR
Freddie's free recall draws to a natural conclusion and Wendy begins the next stage of the interview process.
WENDY HASLEM
What I want you to do is just concentrate from when you arrived at the bar to sitting down.
DS CAROLE BARLOW
This part of the interview, what Wendy is doing is just asking him to focus totally on what happened when he first went into the pub. Not around the event or anything like that, simply one little part of what he did.
EDDIE
I finished my meal, then I heard this shouting. Raised voices.
DS CAROLE BARLOW
We'll follow Eddie's sequence of events if you like to the next room in his memory and then we'll ask a lot more probing questions around that.
EDDIE
When the language started to coming, I turned around and I thought, what's that the flipping hells going on here. Somebody said 'Oh bloody hell he's been stabbed'.
WENDY HASLEM
Picture it in your mind now Eddie and I want you...
DS CAROLE BARLOW
Wendy is doing cognitive reinstatement so she's asking him to slow down, close his eyes if he needs to. To think about exactly where he was and what he could see. So she is really focusing in his mind where we believe the assault took place, that caused the victim to die.
WENDY HASLEM
Have you got them there, can you see them? Right describe in as much detail everything you saw.
DS CAROLE BARLOW
So in effect she's trying to make him put himself back to the scene, so that he can look round again and see everything.
WENDY HASLEM
You described it as pummelling. What sort of speed was he using to do it?
EDDIE
Oh fairly rapid, it wasn't slow.
WENDY HASLEM
Are you able to demonstrate?
DS CAROLE BARLOW
Hopefully that will give him time to focus on what he did see and recall some events that he may not have already told us.
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Psychology research has demonstrated the dangers of asking leading questions and supplying post-event information, which can suggest a response to the witness and even cause them to form a false memory. In addition, research has developed techniques that the police can use to get the most from the memory of an eyewitness, without contaminating their memories. One such interviewing process is known as the cognitive interview.

Next, you will listen to DS Sund interview the two witnesses. When listening to the interview, note down the evidence you think is revealed and evaluate it in light of what you have learned about interview practices and human memory.

Figure 6
FPSY_1

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