Interviewing Victims

Experienced police officers say that interviewing victims can be one of the most stressful parts of the job. Victims bring a host of negative and sometimes overwhelming feelings to the interview: fear, rage, helplessness, confusion, and guilt. The officer, on the other hand, has a job to do – gathering information – and a limited time frame to work with. Follow the guidelines below to conduct a victim interview efficiently and effectively.

1. Acknowledge the victim’s feelings first. It’s understandable that an officer might want to get to the facts right away, bypassing the victim’s feelings. But this approach is likely to backfire: Feelings that are ignored don’t disappear – instead they’re likely to return with the volume turned up.

A businesslike tone that inspires confidence (“You’re safe now, Ma’am” or “I understand that you’ve been through a horrible experience”) builds trust and sets the stage for an effective interview.

2. Don’t blame the victim. Your job is to prosecute lawbreakers, not victims. Citizens sometimes complain that law enforcement makes them feel guilty about what happened to them: A rape victim has a nice figure and attractive clothes; a burglarized house had open windows; a car involved in an accident was exceeding the speed limit. Get the facts, but focus your attention on the offender’s wrongdoing.

3. Avoid excessive questioning. Cooperate with other personnel at the scene to ensure that victims aren’t asked to go over the same information repeatedly. Stifle your curiosity and stick only to relevant information.

4. Be fair and professional. It’s human nature to like some people better than others, to think in stereotypes, and to treat one person better (or worse) than another. And it’s human nature to let your biases affect your interactions with other people.

But professionals are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior. Avoid showing your disapproval of a victim’s lifestyle, values, or beliefs. Here are some situations that might challenge your professionalism:

-an African-American officer investigates a crime against a white citizen who displays Confederate flag in his home and on his car

-a middle-income officer interviews a single mother who’s living in a small, sparsely furnished, and untidy home

-an officer who belongs to a religion that opposes homosexuality interviews a lesbian who was assaulted by her partner

-a Jewish officer investigates a crime against a man who is outspokenly anti-Semitic

5. Examine your own attitudes towards laws and lawbreakers. Past experience can color your views of what does or does not constitute a crime, and those attitudes can cause an officer to adopt a dismissive attitude toward a victim’s concerns. Remember that you’re enforcing society’s laws, not your own values.

For example, an officer who grew up in a family of avid hunters may wonder why she’s asked to enforce wildlife protection laws. Someone whose parents had a violent relationship may not see the point of prosecuting a man who assaulted his wife.

It’s vital to be aware of how your past has shaped you and to make appropriate adjustments in your attitude when necessary. Law enforcement – as the name applies – is about laws, not your biases and opinions.

6. Educate yourself about community resources for victims, and offer information when appropriate. Experts say that victims can experience long-term damage to both their health and their relationships. Most communities offer services to help victims deal with injuries, emotions, and adjustment to everyday living. Make sure you have the information you need (booklets, fliers, phone numbers). Document any information you share with victims.

These guidelines, based on officers with long experience in talking to victims, can go a long way to enhancing your professionalism and the reputation your agency enjoys in your community. Review them often, and practice them whenever possible: The benefits are both significant and long lasting.

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1 thought on “Interviewing Victims

  1. Steven snith

    This all started when I was out for a walk three years ago and heard screaming coming from my neighbors home it was the voice of a lady screaming for help! After I passed the driveway his wife pulled in and I told her what I just heard and she became nervous and angry with me for saying anything about this! And was not concerned with what was going on in side there home.soon after I started getting picked up by one of his officer friends and taken to different phyc wards for no reason ! And held for 12 hour and never was talked to as to why ! They made a pattern of doing this .to create a phyc look for what happened to me year ago I woke up with something done to the back of my head hurting in my front yard then stared having flashbacks of being tied up .since this happened him and his friends have been able to somehow hear what I’m thinking ? And repeat the same things over and over untill they get me to say them in my mind and claim to be able to record this somehow ,? I have not been able to have a pin number or any personal information that they can’t hear .or read of of some kind of equipment? There has been some kind of equipment put in my attic of my home I have askd to have officers search my home for this equipment and have been brushed off by them ? I get misted in different parts of my home that makes me get sick ! Every cellphone that I have created from my address has been cloned since this all happened ! I have been getting death threats for my cellphone ,! And have tried to get the police to take it and was told to wait for a case detective !she has not and will not take it ? I tried to make a police report yesterday and they had her call me back instead ! And she was to busy to take it right then and said she would call me back and never did !! I have been told that they have done this to 30 other people so far and no one had been able to get taken seriously to get help from this yet doe to it being unheard of and them having a high ranking officer helping them ! And being able to stop incoming calls to my home phone as well as this cloned cellphone ! This is being done by my neighbors ! And five or so off his friends ! Matthew Engle! Richy counch! Angie Dickinson! And a officer ! Others that I don’t know the names of. They have said that they are going to do something to each family member that I have told ! And after they do these things they plan on using a recording of me taking credit for there actions ! Or savings me for last and making me call every place that I have called to get help from back and convence them of the things they have done ! And then have there friends vouch for them that these acts were done by me ? And then say that I killed my self or just make me disappear !! I have no where to turn for help !! I have called every law enforcement agencies that I could find .please send help to my home address at 2869 emerald St indpls Indiana 46268 ! They seem to think that no one will look to deep into this do to there job tittles and the phyc background that they have created on me ! And there recording of me that’s going to be so convenceing ! Or by hurting me so bad with torcher that they will be able to get me to take credit for these things !! They hear and know my every thought do it’s been impossible to even get my reports to go trought ! They will have a officer call and say he’s helping me or message u back saying that I no longer need assistance.or ask for a retraction ! Steven smith getting stocked by a cerial killer ,!!!

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