Police interviews with victims and suspects of violent and sexual crimes: interviewees' experiences and interview outcomes

Ulf Holmberg

    Forskningsoutput: Typer av avhandlingarDoktorsavhandling

    26 Nedladdningar (Pure)


    The police interview is one of the most important investigative tools that law enforcement has close at hand, and police interview methods have changed during the twentieth century. A good police interview is conducted in the frame of the law, is governed by the interview goal, and is influenced by facilitating factors that may affect the elicited report. The present doctoral dissertation focuses on police interviews in cases of very serious crimes of violence and sexual offences. Results reveal crime victims’ and perpetrators’ experiences of being interviewed and police officers’ attitudes towards conducting interviews related to traumatizing crimes. Study 1 revealed that when police officers interviewed murderers and sexual offenders, the interviewees perceived attitudes characterized by either dominance or humanity. Police interviews marked by dominance and suspects’ responses of anxiety were mainly associated with a higher proportion of denials, whereas an approach marked by humanity, and responses of being respected were significantly associated with admissions. In line with Study 1, the victims of rape and aggravated assault in Study 2 also revealed the experience of two police interview styles, where an interviewing style marked by dominance and responses of anxiety was significantly associated with crime victims’ omissions of information. Moreover, a humanitarian interviewing style, and crime victims’ feelings of being respected and co-operative, was significantly related to crime victims providing all information from painful events. Special squad police officers’ attitudes towards interviewing crime victims, in Study 3, also showed a humanitarian approach and two dominant approaches, one affective and the other refusing. The attitude towards interviewing suspects of crimes in focus revealed humanitarian and dominant interviewing attitudes, and an approach marked by kindness. The present thesis shows that, during their entire career, an overwhelming majority of the special squad police officers have experienced stressful events during patrol as well as investigative duty. Results show that symptoms from stressful event exposures and coping mechanisms are associated with negative attitudes towards interviewing suspects and supportive attitudes towards crime victim interviews. Thus, experiences from stressful exposures may automatically activate ego-defensive functions that automatically generate dominant attitudes. Moreover, it is important to offer police officers who have been exposed to stressful events the opportunity to work through their experiences, for example, through debriefing procedures. After debriefings, police officers are better prepared to meet crime victims and suspects and, through conscious closed-loop processes, to conduct police interviews without awaking ego-defensive functions.

    • Christianson, Sven Å., Handledare, Extern person
    StatusPublicerad - 2004

    Nationell ämneskategori

    • Psykologi (501)


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