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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78592 Find in a Library
Title: International Summaries: Course of Events in a Crime - Witnesses and the Police - The Reconstruction and Description of Criminal Offenses in Police-Witness Interrogation
Author(s): H W Schmitz
Corporate Author: National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
United States of America
Date Published: Unknown
Page Count: 4
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Washington, DC 20531
National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Rockville, MD 20849
US Dept of Justice NIJ Pub
Washington, DC 20531
Contract Number: J-LEAA-023-77
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS Publication Sales
Box 6000 Department F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Document: PDF
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In this empirical study, witness testimonies in two West German police departments are examined to establish their value for the reconstruction of crimes.
Abstract: To discover the validity of crime reconstruction on the basis of witness testimony, 28 simulated interrogations in 2 West German police departments were conducted. The test persons (volunteers of varied social background) were shown color sound films of several simulated offenses and then asked to act the part of victim or witness. The interrogations, which were recorded on tape, were conducted by actual police officers. The validity of witness depositions was then tested against detailed synopses of the films established for the purpose of the experiment. The results of the study were arranged according to the three basic components of an interrogation: (1) the preliminary questioning, (2) the writing phase, and (3) the finished product. On the whole, the crime reconstructions were far more complete and reliable than was generally assumed. The net informative value of each interrogation (i.e. the completeness and correctness of the information) was found to depend on a number of factors including the witness' powers of observation, and the officer's recording technique, memory retention capacity, method of summarizing results, and, above all, ability to relate to and cooperate with the witness. Interrogating techniques could be improved by the officers (1) placing themselves in the position of witness and offender, (2) informing witnesses clearly of what is expected of them and (3) encouraging witnesses to narrate the crime freely and without interruption. The study contains numerous statistical charts, detailed transcriptions of witness testimonies, an extensive bibliography, and an index. The instructions given to witnesses before the interrogation and the film synopses are appended.
Index Term(s): Criminal investigation; Evidence identification; Germany; Interview and interrogation; Police effectiveness; Testimony
Note: This article, summarized and translated from German by Sybille Jobin, was originally published in West Germany in 1978. For NIJ/NCJRS international summary of "Tatgeschehen, Zeugen und Polizei" (NCJ-60577)
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