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Improving the competency of investigative interviewers of children

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  1. Improving the competency of investigative interviewers of children Professor Martine Powell School of Psychology Deakin University Melbourne, Australia

  2. Primary funding sources • AustralianResearch Council • Victoria and New South Wales Police services • Deakin University

  3. Participating organisations Victoria Police Service Queensland Police Service New South Wales Police Service South Australia Police Service Australian Federal Police Department of Children, Youth and Families (SA) Office for Children, Youth and Family Support (ACT)

  4. Research team Deakin University Dr Rebecca Wright Dr Carolyn Hughes-Scholes Dr Belinda Guadagno Ms Romana Murfett Dr Sarah Agnew Ms Rita Cauchi Dr Jarrad Lum Ms Louise Steel Dr Cristina Cavezza Ms Rebecca Smith Dr Adrian Tomyn External Professor Ronald Fisher (Florida International University) Associate Professor Mark Kebbell (Griffith University) Dr Pamela Snow (Monash University) Dr Mark Stoove (Burnett Institute) Dr Damien Ridge (City University London)

  5. Structure of presentation What constitutes ‘best-practice’ interviewing of children? How well do professionals adhere to interview guidelines? What are the barriers to implementing interview guides? What strategies may assist organisations to achieve best-practice?

  6. Structure of presentation What constitutes ‘best-practice’ interviewing of children? How well do professionals adhere to interview guidelines? What are the barriers to implementing interview guides? What strategies may assist organisations to achieve best-practice?

  7. Best practice investigative interviewing of children

  8. Best practice investigative interviewing of children Maximising narrative detail forms the basis of most interview protocols and is especially important for child witnesses who have limited memory and language abilities.

  9. Agnew, S. E. & Powell, M. B. (2004). The effect of intellectual disability on children’s recall of an event across different question types. Law and Human Behavior, 28, 273-294

  10. Open-ended questions • elicit more accurate witness statements (Dent & Stephenson, 1979). • elicit longer witness responses (Sternberg, Lamb, Hershkowitz, Esplin, Redlich, & Sunshine, 1996) • encourage witnesses to play an active role in the interview process (Roberts, Lamb, & Sternberg, 2004; Sternberg et al., 1997). • enhance witnesses’ perception that they were listened to (Eastwood & Patton, 2002). • maximise story-grammar detail and thus victim credibility (Feltis, Powell, Snow & Hughes-Scholes, 2010) • elicit more temporal attributes (Orbach & Lamb, 2007) • do not require much ad hoc interviewer decision making (Powell & Wright, 2008) • reduce the negative consequences of interviewer errors such as confirmation bias (Hughes-Scholes & Powell, 2010)

  11. How well do investigators adhere to open-ended questions? Answer = Not very well

  12. Open Q • Interviewer: Tell me everything that happened and start from the beginning. • Child: Well, it was the Christmas party at Adam's house, and we got in the car. We got everything ready and we drove to where they lived. • Interviewer: Where is that? • Child: Adam’s house? I don’t really know the address. • Interviewer: That’s OK. When did this happen? Child: Last weekend we went there. Interviewer: So what happened when you drove there. Child: That’s when I met Joe. Interviewer: Who’s Joe? Child: He’s my cousin. (Child aged 10 years) Specific Q

  13. Why don’t most child abuse investigators adhere to open-ended questions?

  14. Elements of training associated with adherence to best-practice interview guidelines • Distribution of training incorporating practice over time • Expert instruction and feedback • Exemplars of good practice (structured interview protocol) • Voluntary (intrinsically motivated) participants • Review of training studies: Powell, M.B., Fisher. R. P. & Wright, R. (2005). Investigative Interviewing. In N. Brewer & K. Williams (Eds.) Psychology and Law: An empirical perspective,. New York: Guilford Press.

  15. Barriers to implementing best-practice interview guidelines with children

  16. Barrier 1: The importance of open questions, and the types of these questions that elicit narrative accounts, are not well understood and reinforced

  17. The importance of open questions, and the types of these questions that elicit narrative accounts, are not well understood and reinforced • Interviewers asked to… • …identify challenges in their role as investigators (Study 1) • Wright, R., Powell, M. B., & Ridge, D. (2006). Child abuse investigation: An in-depth analysis of how police officers’ perceive and cope with daily work challenges. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 29, 498-512. • …talk about the interview process (Study 2) • Wright, R. & Powell, M. B. (2006). Investigative interviewers’ perceptions of their difficulty in adhering to open-ended questions with child witnesses. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 8, 316-325. • …define a good interviewer of children (Study 3) • Wright, R. & Powell, M. B. (2006). What makes a good investigative interviewer of children? A comparison of police officers’ and experts’ perceptions. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 30, 21-31. • …conduct written evaluations of their own interview (Study 4) Wright, Powell & Ridge (in press) What criteria do police officers use to measure the success of an interview with a child? Psychology, Crime and Law, 13, 395-404.

  18. The importance of open questions, and the types of these questions that elicit narrative accounts, are not well understood and reinforced • Interviewers asked to… • …identify challenges in their role as investigators (Study 1) • Wright, R., Powell, M. B., & Ridge, D. (2006). Child abuse investigation: An in-depth analysis of how police officers’ perceive and cope with daily work challenges. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 29, 498-512. • …talk about the interview process (Study 2) • Wright, R. & Powell, M. B. (2006). Investigative interviewers’ perceptions of their difficulty in adhering to open-ended questions with child witnesses. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 8, 316-325. • …define a good interviewer of children (Study 3) • Wright, R. & Powell, M. B. (2006). What makes a good investigative interviewer of children? A comparison of police officers’ and experts’ perceptions. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 30, 21-31. • …conduct written evaluations of their own interview (Study 4) Wright, Powell & Ridge (in press) What criteria do police officers use to measure the success of an interview with a child? Psychology, Crime and Law, 13, 395-404. Open questions did not feature at all in their discussions!

  19. The importance of open questions, and the types of these questions that elicit narrative accounts, are not well understood and reinforced • Findings consistent with other investigation practices such as… • …decisions to authorise briefs of evidence • Powell, M. B., Murfett R. & Thomson, D. (in press). An analysis of police officers’ decisions about whether to refer cases of child abuse for prosecution. Psychology, Crime & Law. • …handwritten recordings of interviews • Lamb, M. E., Orbach, Y., Sternberg, K. J., Hershkowitz, I., & Horowitz, D. (2000). Accuracy of investigators' verbatim notes of their forensic interviews with alleged child abuse victims. Law and Human Behavior, 24, 699-708. • Cauchi, R. T, Powell, M. B., Hughes-Scholes, C. H. (2010). A controlled analysis of professionals’ contemporaneous notes of interviews about alleged child abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect. 34, 318-323. • Cauchi, R. & Powell, M. B. (2009). An examination of police officers’ notes of interviews with alleged child abuse victims. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 11, 505-515.

  20. The importance of open questions, and the types of these questions that elicit narrative accounts, are not well understood and reinforced • Findings are in contrast to … • …perceptions of legal professionals • Guadagno, B. Powell, M. B.& Wright, R. (2006). Police officers’ and legal professionals’ perceptions regarding how children are, and should be, questioned about repeated abuse. Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, 13, 251-260. • Powell, M. B., Wright, R. & Hughes-Scholes, C. (in press).Contrasting the perceptions of child testimony experts, prosecutors and police officers regarding individual child abuse interviews. Psychiatry, Psychology & Law. • Powell, M. B., Wright, R. (2009). Professionals’ perceptions of electronically recorded interviews with vulnerable witnesses, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 21, 205-218. • … interviewers who have undergone extensive training: • Powell, M. B. & Wright, R. (2008). Investigative interviewers’ perceptions of the value of different training tasks on their adherence to open-ended questions with children. Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, 15, 272-283. Here, the importance of open questions do feature in discussions!

  21. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1)

  22. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1) Identify (using ‘think aloud’ exercises) when interviewers deviate from asking open-ended questions and precipitating factors

  23. Strategies that helped and hindered the interviewers’ ability to use open-ended questions • Powell, M. B., Fisher, R. P., Hughes-Scholes, C. H. (2008). The effect of using trained versus untrained • adult respondents in simulated practice interviews about child abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 1007-1016.

  24. Strategies that helped and hindered the interviewers’ ability to use open-ended questions Unless the interviewer masters an open-ended style of questioning and learns to persist with these questions (it takes considerable practice to do this), interviewees do not engage in the type of elaborate memory retrieval required to elicit a detailed narrative account. This, in turn, discourages the interviewer from persisting and practicing with open-ended questions. • Powell, M. B., Fisher, R. P., Hughes-Scholes, C. H. (2008). The effect of using trained versus untrained • adult respondents in simulated practice interviews about child abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 1007-1016.

  25. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1) Identify (using ‘think aloud’ exercises) when interviewers deviate from asking open-ended questions and precipitating factors Identify the nature of interviewers’ limitations when they use open-ended questions

  26. Problem 1. Choice of questions was inappropriate for eliciting a free narrative account of what occurred Powell, M. B & Guadagno, B. (2008). An examination of the limitations in investigative interviewers’ use of open-ended questions, Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, 15, 382-395

  27. Problem 2. Open questions inhibited elaborate responding Powell, M. B & Guadagno, B. (2008). An examination of the limitations in investigative interviewers’ use of open-ended questions, Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, 15, 382-395

  28. Problem 3. Limitations in interviewers’ ability to tailor the interview to the child’s level of development Powell, M. B & Guadagno, B. (2008). An examination of the limitations in investigative interviewers’ use of open-ended questions, Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, 15, 382-395

  29. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1) Identify (using ‘think aloud’ exercises) when interviewers deviate from asking open-ended questions and precipitating factors Identify the nature of interviewers’ limitations when they use open-ended questions Provide more exemplars of best practice (instruction guides, films, role plays)

  30. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1) Identify (using ‘think aloud’ exercises) when interviewers deviate from asking open-ended questions and precipitating factors Identify the nature of interviewers’ limitations when they use open-ended questions Provide more exemplars of best practice (instruction guides, films, role plays) Elicit more feedback from prosecutors

  31. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1) • Identify (using ‘think aloud’ exercises) when interviewers deviate from asking open-ended questions and precipitating factors • Identify the nature of interviewers’ limitations when they use open-ended questions • Provide more exemplars of best practice (instruction guides, films, role plays) • Elicit more feedback from prosecutors • Powell, M. B., Wright, R. & Hughes-Scholes, C. (in press).Contrasting the perceptions of child testimony experts, prosecutors and police officers regarding individual child abuse interviews. Psychiatry, Psychology & Law.

  32. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1) Identify (using ‘think aloud’ exercises) when interviewers deviate from asking open-ended questions and precipitating factors Identify the nature of interviewers’ limitations when they use open-ended questions Provide more exemplars of best practice (instruction guides, films, role plays) Elicit more feedback from prosecutors Dispute myths which undermine the notion that interviewing is a specialised skill

  33. Conduct research to dispute myths and organisational policies that undermine professional development opportunities • Demonstrating negligible impact of individual interviewer characteristics • Smith, R., Powell, M. B. & Lum, J. (2009). The relationship between job status, interviewing experience, gender and police officers’ adherence to open-ended questions. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 14, 51-63.

  34. Conduct research to dispute myths and organisational policies that undermine professional development opportunities • Demonstrating negligible impact of individual interviewer characteristics • Smith, R., Powell, M. B. & Lum, J. (2009). The relationship between job status, interviewing experience, gender and police officers’ adherence to open-ended questions. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 14, 51-63. • Exposing biases about the way children recall abuse • Hughes-Scholes, C & Powell, M. B.. (in preparation). Investigative interviewers’ perceptions about the way children report abuse.

  35. Conduct research to dispute myths and organisational policies that undermine professional development opportunities • Demonstrating negligible impact of individual interviewer characteristics • Smith, R., Powell, M. B. & Lum, J. (2009). The relationship between job status, interviewing experience, gender and police officers’ adherence to open-ended questions. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 14, 51-63. • Exposing biases about the way children recall abuse • Hughes-Scholes, C & Powell, M. B.. (in preparation). Investigative interviewers’ perceptions about the way children report abuse. • Disputing psychological rationale for maximum tenure • Powell, M. B. & Tomyn, A. (2010). Life satisfaction amongst police officers who work in the area of child abuse investigation. Manuscript submitted for publication.

  36. Conduct research to dispute myths/policies that undermine perception of interviewing as a specialised skill • Demonstrating negligible impact of individual interviewer characteristics • Smith, R., Powell, M. B. & Lum, J. (2009). The relationship between job status, interviewing experience, gender and police officers’ adherence to open-ended questions. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 14, 51-63. • Exposing biases about the way children recall abuse • Hughes-Scholes, C & Powell, M. B.. (in preparation). Investigative interviewers’ perceptions about the way children report abuse. • Disputing psychological rationale for maximum tenure • Powell, M. B. & Tomyn, A. (2010). Life satisfaction amongst police officers who work in the area of child abuse investigation. Manuscript submitted for publication. • Demonstrating limitations in self-initiated practice • Wright, R., Guadagno, B. L. & Powell, M. B. (2009). An evaluation of a self-initiated practice exercise for investigative interviewers of children. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 11, 366-376. • Powell, M. B., Fisher, R. P., Hughes-Scholes, C. H. (2008). The effect of using trained versus untrained adult respondents in simulated practice interviews about child abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 1007-1016.

  37. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1) Identify (using ‘think aloud’ exercises) when interviewers deviate from asking open-ended questions and precipitating factors Identify the nature of interviewers’ limitations when they use open-ended questions Provide more exemplars of best practice (instruction guides, films, role plays). Elicit more feedback from prosecutors. Dispute myths which undermine the notion that interviewing is a specialised skill Provide clear definitions of various questions and rationale for inconsistencies in the literature

  38. Definitions of open-ended questions • …. elicitmoreencompassingand elaborate responses. • [Fisher & Geiselman (1992) Memory-enhancing techniques for investigative interviewing]. • …. require multi-word responses,and in general, deal with broader topics. • [Poole & Lamb (1998) Investigative interviews of children: A guide for helping professionals]. • …. encourage elaborate responses, without assuming details or dictating what specific information is required. • [Wilson & Powell (2001) A guide to interviewing children].

  39. Intervention strategies (Barrier 1) • Identify (using ‘think aloud’ exercises) when interviewers deviate from asking open-ended questions and precipitating factors • Identify the nature of interviewers’ limitations when they use open-ended questions • Provide more exemplars of best practice (instruction guides, films, role plays). • Elicit more feedback from prosecutors. • Conduct research to dispute myths which undermine the notion that interviewing is a specialised skill • Provide clear definitions of various questions and rationale for inconsistencies in the literature • Develop protocols for playing the role of interviewees in mock interviews

  40. Unless mock interview exercises provide the stimuli (e.g., silence, lack of specific detail, irrelevant or ambiguous responses) that would normally provoke an inappropriate question it is unlikely that learning that arises during the practice sessions could be applied to more challenging interview contexts.