12.03.2011

The Many Roles Of The Private Investigator In Investigating Child Sexual Abuse Allegations Part V

the private investigator
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By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc
There are many aspects to being a private investigator. One of the most challenging is the interviewing of individuals who have knowledge about the case the investigator is investigating. Sometimes the interviews can be conducted by telephone. A policy which is not recommended when the credibility of the witness is a major question mark. The face-to-face interview is the intelligent method to take when the individual the investigator will be interviewing could have the ability to change the facts of the case in chief. On the telephone the investigator can’t see the behavioral responses to the questions asked by the investigator.
There are many books which are available for reference when you become experienced in interviewing individuals who have a reputation for being deceitful. If a witness presents a poker face in the interview in order to mislead an inexperienced investigator preparing for the interview by reviewing a body language book will make a positive difference for the investigator.
There are many other challenges when it comes to interviewing witnesses who may have relevant and material information about the facts of the case. Witnesses come in all types of shapes i.e. some are difficult to interview where others want to tell you everything they know. Further, the investigator may have to deal with a witness who suffers from a mental or physical disability or both.
When the investigator is faced with dealing with a witness who is disabled, there are several steps the investigator needs to take in order to obtain complete and thorough information. These suggested 10 interview steps are:
      1.      Before meeting with the witness the investigator needs to research the type of disability they will be dealing with. It is important that each interview with a disabled witness be thoroughly thought out. It is not enough to do a Google search, find the disability and put to use what the definition states the disability is. Instead the investigator should contact someone in the medical field which can assist them in preparing for the interview. The investigator will find the medical personnel to be very helpful.
        2.      The investigator needs to make sure the location of the interview is conducive to the disability the witness is suffering from. Some disabled witnesses are intimidated by large crowds and loud noises. It is important that the interview be performed in a quiet and private room where interruptions are minimized.
        3.      If the disabled witness has difficulty in expressing themselves due to their disability the investigator needs to consider the digital recordings to be utilized during the interview. The investigator may want to videotape or at a minimum digitally record the interview. Each interview will predicate what method to use.
      4.      With a disabled witness it is very important that the investigator explains to the witness the guidelines of the interview e.g. they can take a break at any time during the interview, they can ask for the question to be asked in a different manner, to tell the investigator that they don’t understand the question and so forth.
     5.      Generally, when interviewing a child witness, the need to perform the truth/lie ceremony is very important. With adult witnesses who have mental disabilities it is important to walk them through the truth/lie guidelines so the witness understands that they can say they don’t know, that the answer to the question is a lie and so forth.
     6.      It is important that all interviews which are conducted begin with open-ended questions. With disabled witnesses this may not be possible. More details, not leading or suggestive questions may need to be included in the questions so the witness has a better understanding of the context of the specific questions.
     7.      Repetitive questions are generally inappropriate to ask, but as long as there is a legitimate reason for the question to be answered, the investigator may have to ask the same question several times. At the beginning of the interview it is imperative that the investigator advice the witness that if they ask a question more than one time it isn’t because they didn’t like their first answer. This prevents the witness from thinking they need to change their answer.
      8.      The body language of the investigator is never as important as when interviewing witnesses who are disabled. Since verbal communication is possibly a handicap for the witness, the investigator must take great strides in making sure their body language isn’t something that becomes a leading and suggestive problem.
       9.      As the investigator concludes the interview, the disabled witness needs to be given the opportunity and/or the option to ask the investigator any questions they may have thought of as the interview proceeded.
    10.  At the end of the interview the investigator should thank the witness for coming and thank them for being patient with the investigator. It is important that the investigator remains neutral and objective at the beginning of the interview and at the closing of the interview.
As one can see interviewing is a necessary tool that an investigator must become proficient at. If the investigator takes the time to prepare and practice at, their value to the investigation will speak loudly about their skills as a patient and competent interviewer.
Tomorrow, there are many other types of interviews which need to identified and discussed. Depending on the type of case the investigator is working will depend upon what type of interview is utilized. I will take you through several other types of interviews which I believe you will find interesting.


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