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Issue No. 353 January 2012

More staff asking the right questions

A programme to train specialist interviewers is going exceptionally well, says Detective Inspector Ross Grantham, Manager of Investigations Development based at Police National Headquarters.

Investigative interviewing skills have been taught to staff since 2008. There are four levels, from Level 1 Foundation for all recruits through to highly specialised Level 4 Interview Advisors.

The techniques enable staff to obtain complete, accurate and reliable information from victims, witnesses and suspects.

Senior Sergeant Nina Westera with one of the portable interviewing units introduced last April.
Photo: Melina Curtis, PNHQ

“Level 1 training has been given to 6,500 frontline staff. Our target was 6,000 so this is outstanding,” says Ross.

The Level 3 programme was developed by Senior Sergeant Nina Westera, National Advisor of Standards and Training.

“It’s now accepted practice and I believe she’s created a programme that is leading the world,” says Ross.

The first Level 3 Specialist Suspect Interviewing course is set down for early this year, and there’s been no shortage of applicants.

Those who qualify will be equipped to interview all suspects of major crimes such as murder, rape, kidnap and aggravated robbery.

They will use techniques which aim to get interviewees to tell a story, rather than simply confess.

“If you go in looking for a confession or admission, you tend to become focused on that outcome,” says Ross. “The model we’re teaching - called conversation management - is designed specifically to eliminate these issues. We want to get as much information as possible so we can either eliminate them from our enquiry or tie them into their story and then challenge them appropriately.”

The plan is to build a small number of highly-skilled interviewers who can work on serious cases. Specialist Suspect Interviewers will complement the current core of 120 Specialist Witness Interviewers who undertake assignments around their districts.

Later this year, Ross anticipates the focus will be on developing Level 4 training for Interview Advisors. The aim is to have one Advisor in every district who can recommend strategies to interviewers dealing with major incidents.

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