Promoting justice: Professionalising frontline policing with an evidence-based Structured Interview Protocol

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Psychology

Abstract

Evidence obtained from victims and witnesses is of critical importance to the criminal justice system. Current interview procedures for eliciting this evidence frequently fall short of best practice, and have not kept pace with theoretical developments relating to human memory. This is highly problematic as poor quality investigative interviewing leads to incomplete witness evidence at best, and unreliable evidence at worst.

Concerns over the quality of investigative interview skills is particularly acute for frontline uniformed officers who have a lack of policing experience coupled with demanding and multi-faceted work priorities. The provision of interview training for these officers is already severely limited; usually a couple of days of basic training are allocated to learning how to interact with victims and witnesses. At a time of financial austerity, when forces have been required to make savings of £2.4bn by 2015 due to a 20% cut in Home Office grants to police authorities, this situation is moving towards crisis point; the number of frontline officers is being reduced, officer workloads are increasing and there are even fewer opportunities for training. A key recommendation made by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to budget for these severe cuts highlighted the need to transform the efficiency of front line staff. The proposed research directly addresses this.

The critical challenges of falling budgets and rising expectations were central to a recent government policy conference in the UK (Policing & Justice for the 21st Century, July, 2013). The UK Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice called for 'greater innovation to maintain standards' as part of his bid to promote recent Home Office policies - 'Making the criminal justice system more efficient' (April, 2013), and 'Helping the police fight crime more effectively' (March, 2013). UK police forces are being encouraged to modernise by adopting new technology, such as bodyworn-cameras. These new initiatives are promising, and have every potential to make policing more efficient and effective by speeding up the path to justice, reducing paperwork, and enabling officers to spend more time on patrol. However, digital innovations will also expose the deficits in interviewing and interpersonal communication skills, due to increased transparency and the availability of recordings.

In light of this increasingly difficult policing context there is an urgent need for new and effective evidence-based interview procedures that complement national guidelines on the collection of evidence while also (a) supporting frontline officers, (b) increasing the speed of obtaining evidence, (c) enhancing the quality of evidence obtained, and (d) promoting the success of current and future technological implementation of digital-recording in policing contexts.

The primary aim of the project is therefore to support current and future generations of frontline officers via the development and introduction of a novel 'Structured Interview Protocol', an investigative interview protocol that will efficiently and effectively promote the conduct of ethical best practice interviews to elicit high quality evidence. The protocol will draw upon relevant memory theory and principles of memory, current psychological theory on the strategic control of memory reporting, and cutting-edge psychological developments in investigative interviewing research. It will be developed in collaboration with police-based Knowledge Exchange partners to enhance the success of digitally-recorded interviews, at the same time consolidating and improving front line officers' practice conducting interviews. The College of Policing will provide expert oversight and a quality assurance role. The Structured Interview Protocol will be scientifically validated via controlled experiments and a randomised controlled field-trial. As a whole, the research promises significant impact.

Planned Impact

The main objective of the proposed research programme is to produce an evidence-based Structured Interview Protocol that has been developed in the laboratory and robustly tested in the field by police end-users. This innovation is particularly timely due to recent substantial budget cuts in the public sector in the UK resulting in increased individual workloads and fewer opportunities for police training. We anticipate significant impact with respect to promoting transparency and consistency of practice among frontline police officers through the use of the protocol. Our proposed innovation is also timely in light of current police initiatives promoting the use of body worn video. Enhanced transparency and increased professionalism have the potential over time to lead to improved police-community relations and a reduction in police complaints. The successful implementation of our innovation, once subjected to thorough development testing and end-user evaluation in the field, will also result in significant cost savings through more efficient investigatory practice and reduced demand on police resources.

Our primary end-user beneficiaries are therefore police practitioners including frontline police officers and investigative interview trainers. Additional beneficiaries include policy-makers in the criminal justice system such as the College of Policing, and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) National Strategic Steering Group on Investigative Interviewing, whose key aims are to promote evidence-based policy and practice, and to set standards for the police service. For these beneficiaries we expect the primary impact to centre on enhanced policy and procedure surrounding interview skills training for frontline officers via the introduction of an evidence-based Structured Interview Protocol and associated training materials and guidelines. Our police practitioner partners have been fully involved in the development of the project from the outset and are committed to both the concept and its forward implementation.

The proposed research also has potential to achieve significant impact internationally, especially in countries with less advanced investigative procedures. Developing countries, in particular, have soaring levels of both volume and serious crime, coupled with insufficient (sometimes non-existent) training and resources necessary to promote and develop interviewing skills. The rationale underpinning the proposed research is based upon the universal psychology of human memory, meaning that the Structured Interview Protocol will be suitable for use worldwide.

In a wider context, society will ultimately benefit, as high quality, reliable evidence is vital for the investigation process, the pursuit of fair prosecutions, and for preventing miscarriages of justice. As such the current research will benefit society by means of improved delivery of justice and improved police-community relations through transparency and enhanced professionalism.

The research programme will also generate high quality publications contributing to scientific knowledge, and will be particularly relevant for experimental and applied psychology researchers with an interest in memory performance, metacognition, and enhancing the quality and quantity of information provided by eyewitnesses in investigative interviews.

In sum, the research programme has genuine potential to deliver important impacts and benefit (i) police practitioners, (ii) policy makers in the criminal justice system, (iii) society, and (iv) academic researchers, in the UK and internationally.
 
Description The objectives for our project were as follows -
1. Examine real-life interview data from frontline officers to understand baseline performance, and identify common challenges and training needs;
2. Work with our practitioner collaborators to develop an evidence-based Structured Interview Protocol, and related training, for use by frontline officers (and any other basic-level investigative interviewers);
3. Test the Structured Interview Protocol under controlled conditions to examine the amount of training required to produce effective results; and
4. Test the Structured Interview Protocol training in the field with a randomised controlled trial.

We met all of our objectives by developing and testing a Structured Interview Protocol that has been designed to efficiently and effectively promote the conduct of ethical best practice interviews to elicit high quality evidence. The protocol, which is consistent with the PEACE model of interviewing (a model familiar to all police officers), draws on relevant memory theory and principles of memory, current psychological theory on the strategic control of memory reporting, and cutting-edge psychological developments in investigative interviewing research.

Results of lab-based studies, and field trials, to date have shown that the Structured Interview Protocol promotes high quality, efficient, and effective interview performance via skilled use of rapid rapport techniques, enhanced 'engage and explain' skills, and a clear increase in appropriate question types, used in a structured manner. The field trials showed that these skills were still being used two to three months after training.

These results have been presented at two international conferences, and are currently being written up for publication in both academic and practitioner journals.
Exploitation Route In collaboration with our external knowledge-exchange partners, we have developed an evidence-based interview protocol (the Structured Interview Protocol), and related guidance, for use by front-line officers and other introductory level investigative interviewers. The Structured Interview Protocol (SIP) efficiently and effectively promotes the conduct of ethical best practice interviews to elicit high quality information from witnesses, victims, and persons of interest. Our research has demonstrated that it is simple to train and adhere to, and that interviews significantly improve from pre- to post-training. While our field-trails of the SIP have been with police officers, we have also identified a range of other potential end-users. As such, during the course of the project we have identified, engaged with, and delivered SIP training to the European Investment Bank, Amnesty International, and the International Criminal Court, The Hague.

We have only recently completed this project, and therefore dissemination of our findings is still in the relatively early stages. As such, we expect to be able to answer this question more comprehensively with time.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy,Other

 
Description After being invited to deliver small-group training in use of the Structured Interview Protocol to the International Criminal Court (The Hague), we have since been asked to train all of their investigators. (update August 2016; we have now been asked to train all of their advanced investigative interviewers). As our primary end-users are the police, we expect to report more impacts arising from the research in due course, after we present our findings to the College of Policing. (update August 2016; this will take place in September, 2016). (update March 2018; (1) I was invited to talk about the Structured Interview Protocol in a Plenary Session of the Annual Conference for the Society for Evidence Based Policing; (2) In February 2018 I was invited to give a workshop about the Structured Interview Protocol to Icelandic Police). While working with the College of Policing on this project, PI - Fiona Gabbert - has been invited as a specialist subject matter academic expert to work in team to develop Authorised Professional Practice focused on investigative interviewing and initial account taking, aimed at front-line officers.
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy,Other
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Academic Advisor on the College of Policing's Investigative Interviewing Guideline Committee
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Change to interview training in the ICC
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The Structured Interview Protocol (SIP) is an investigative interview protocol designed to efficiently and effectively promote the conduct of ethical best practice interviews to elicit high quality evidence. The International Criminal Court (ICC), The Hague, now train all investigators to use this method of interviewing in their international investigations.
 
Description Collaboration with Amnesty International 
Organisation Amnesty International
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Research Team piloted the Structured Interview Protocol training with investigators at Amnesty International
Collaborator Contribution Amnesty International provided us with pilot data on the training, so that we could revise it prior to the randomised controlled trial in the field with our primary target audience - police officers.
Impact The Structured Interview Protocol training was revised as an outcome of this engagement activity
Start Year 2015
 
Description New academic collaboration 
Organisation Birmingham City University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My Research Team shared data with our new academic collaborators.
Collaborator Contribution Our new academic collaborators analysed the data by applying their expertise in linguistics.
Impact The outcomes of this analysis were presented at the Annual Conference of the International Investigative Interview Research Group in 2017.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Partnership with UK Police 
Organisation British Transport Police
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The PI and RA (a) met regularly with contact persons at the police forces listed above, and (b) co-delivered Structured Interview Protocol training to participating forces. We will co-disseminate findings in due course.
Collaborator Contribution Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Thames Valley Police (TVP) were heavily involved in all aspects of the project; 1. During Phase 1, GMP, TVP, Hampshire Constabulary, and West Midlands Police supplied the research team with Body-Worn-Video (BWV) footage recorded in the course of operational duty. 2. During Phase 2, GMP & TVP contributed to the development of the Structured Interview Protocol. Specifically, their Senior Investigative Interview Advisors advised on the development of the protocol prior to testing to ensure maximum utility and applicability. 3. During Phase 3, GMP & TVP committed to full involvement in the randomised controlled trial (RCT) and ensured that appropriate levels of resources were in place, including requisite training for officers, management of the allocation of officers across trials and collation of data throughout the period of the RCT. All forces were involved in developing and revising the SIP via meetings and discussions.
Impact The primary output is the Structured Interview Protocol booklet and training materials. More outputs to come in due course.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnership with UK Police 
Organisation College of Policing
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The PI and RA (a) met regularly with contact persons at the police forces listed above, and (b) co-delivered Structured Interview Protocol training to participating forces. We will co-disseminate findings in due course.
Collaborator Contribution Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Thames Valley Police (TVP) were heavily involved in all aspects of the project; 1. During Phase 1, GMP, TVP, Hampshire Constabulary, and West Midlands Police supplied the research team with Body-Worn-Video (BWV) footage recorded in the course of operational duty. 2. During Phase 2, GMP & TVP contributed to the development of the Structured Interview Protocol. Specifically, their Senior Investigative Interview Advisors advised on the development of the protocol prior to testing to ensure maximum utility and applicability. 3. During Phase 3, GMP & TVP committed to full involvement in the randomised controlled trial (RCT) and ensured that appropriate levels of resources were in place, including requisite training for officers, management of the allocation of officers across trials and collation of data throughout the period of the RCT. All forces were involved in developing and revising the SIP via meetings and discussions.
Impact The primary output is the Structured Interview Protocol booklet and training materials. More outputs to come in due course.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnership with UK Police 
Organisation Greater Manchester Police
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The PI and RA (a) met regularly with contact persons at the police forces listed above, and (b) co-delivered Structured Interview Protocol training to participating forces. We will co-disseminate findings in due course.
Collaborator Contribution Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Thames Valley Police (TVP) were heavily involved in all aspects of the project; 1. During Phase 1, GMP, TVP, Hampshire Constabulary, and West Midlands Police supplied the research team with Body-Worn-Video (BWV) footage recorded in the course of operational duty. 2. During Phase 2, GMP & TVP contributed to the development of the Structured Interview Protocol. Specifically, their Senior Investigative Interview Advisors advised on the development of the protocol prior to testing to ensure maximum utility and applicability. 3. During Phase 3, GMP & TVP committed to full involvement in the randomised controlled trial (RCT) and ensured that appropriate levels of resources were in place, including requisite training for officers, management of the allocation of officers across trials and collation of data throughout the period of the RCT. All forces were involved in developing and revising the SIP via meetings and discussions.
Impact The primary output is the Structured Interview Protocol booklet and training materials. More outputs to come in due course.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnership with UK Police 
Organisation Hampshire Constabulary
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The PI and RA (a) met regularly with contact persons at the police forces listed above, and (b) co-delivered Structured Interview Protocol training to participating forces. We will co-disseminate findings in due course.
Collaborator Contribution Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Thames Valley Police (TVP) were heavily involved in all aspects of the project; 1. During Phase 1, GMP, TVP, Hampshire Constabulary, and West Midlands Police supplied the research team with Body-Worn-Video (BWV) footage recorded in the course of operational duty. 2. During Phase 2, GMP & TVP contributed to the development of the Structured Interview Protocol. Specifically, their Senior Investigative Interview Advisors advised on the development of the protocol prior to testing to ensure maximum utility and applicability. 3. During Phase 3, GMP & TVP committed to full involvement in the randomised controlled trial (RCT) and ensured that appropriate levels of resources were in place, including requisite training for officers, management of the allocation of officers across trials and collation of data throughout the period of the RCT. All forces were involved in developing and revising the SIP via meetings and discussions.
Impact The primary output is the Structured Interview Protocol booklet and training materials. More outputs to come in due course.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnership with UK Police 
Organisation Leicestershire Police
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The PI and RA (a) met regularly with contact persons at the police forces listed above, and (b) co-delivered Structured Interview Protocol training to participating forces. We will co-disseminate findings in due course.
Collaborator Contribution Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Thames Valley Police (TVP) were heavily involved in all aspects of the project; 1. During Phase 1, GMP, TVP, Hampshire Constabulary, and West Midlands Police supplied the research team with Body-Worn-Video (BWV) footage recorded in the course of operational duty. 2. During Phase 2, GMP & TVP contributed to the development of the Structured Interview Protocol. Specifically, their Senior Investigative Interview Advisors advised on the development of the protocol prior to testing to ensure maximum utility and applicability. 3. During Phase 3, GMP & TVP committed to full involvement in the randomised controlled trial (RCT) and ensured that appropriate levels of resources were in place, including requisite training for officers, management of the allocation of officers across trials and collation of data throughout the period of the RCT. All forces were involved in developing and revising the SIP via meetings and discussions.
Impact The primary output is the Structured Interview Protocol booklet and training materials. More outputs to come in due course.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnership with UK Police 
Organisation Thames Valley Police
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The PI and RA (a) met regularly with contact persons at the police forces listed above, and (b) co-delivered Structured Interview Protocol training to participating forces. We will co-disseminate findings in due course.
Collaborator Contribution Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Thames Valley Police (TVP) were heavily involved in all aspects of the project; 1. During Phase 1, GMP, TVP, Hampshire Constabulary, and West Midlands Police supplied the research team with Body-Worn-Video (BWV) footage recorded in the course of operational duty. 2. During Phase 2, GMP & TVP contributed to the development of the Structured Interview Protocol. Specifically, their Senior Investigative Interview Advisors advised on the development of the protocol prior to testing to ensure maximum utility and applicability. 3. During Phase 3, GMP & TVP committed to full involvement in the randomised controlled trial (RCT) and ensured that appropriate levels of resources were in place, including requisite training for officers, management of the allocation of officers across trials and collation of data throughout the period of the RCT. All forces were involved in developing and revising the SIP via meetings and discussions.
Impact The primary output is the Structured Interview Protocol booklet and training materials. More outputs to come in due course.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnership with UK Police 
Organisation West Midlands Police
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The PI and RA (a) met regularly with contact persons at the police forces listed above, and (b) co-delivered Structured Interview Protocol training to participating forces. We will co-disseminate findings in due course.
Collaborator Contribution Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Thames Valley Police (TVP) were heavily involved in all aspects of the project; 1. During Phase 1, GMP, TVP, Hampshire Constabulary, and West Midlands Police supplied the research team with Body-Worn-Video (BWV) footage recorded in the course of operational duty. 2. During Phase 2, GMP & TVP contributed to the development of the Structured Interview Protocol. Specifically, their Senior Investigative Interview Advisors advised on the development of the protocol prior to testing to ensure maximum utility and applicability. 3. During Phase 3, GMP & TVP committed to full involvement in the randomised controlled trial (RCT) and ensured that appropriate levels of resources were in place, including requisite training for officers, management of the allocation of officers across trials and collation of data throughout the period of the RCT. All forces were involved in developing and revising the SIP via meetings and discussions.
Impact The primary output is the Structured Interview Protocol booklet and training materials. More outputs to come in due course.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Academic presentation of SIP 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Academic talk to be given at the International Conference on Memory, Budapest, titled 'Enhancing the quality of investigative interviews using a novel Structured Interview Protocol'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Academic presentation of SIP to Senior UK Police Officers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited workshop featuring the Structured Interview Protocol was delivered to approx 80 Senior Investigating Officers and Interview Advisors from four UK police forces who were keen to learn the evidence-base behind it, and discuss how best to use it.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description ICOM conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI - Fiona Gabbert - presented the research project to a large group of memory researchers. This led to a large amount of interest amongst audience members, and a high potential for new research collaborations that are currently being discussed.

Gabbert, F., Hope, L., La Rooy, D. McGregor, A. Milne, R., & Ellis, T. (July, 2016). Enhancing the quality of investigative interviews using a novel Structured Interview Protocol. International Conference on Memory, Budapest, Hungary.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Investigative Interview Workshop (Icelandic Police) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In Feb 2018 I was invited to Reykjavic by the Icelandic Police Force to conduct two workshops about the Structured Interview Protocol, with a view to them adopting the training developed within the grant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Plenary talk at Society of Evidence Based Policing conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited talk for a plenary session titled - 'Recurrent problems with investigative interviews; Can a Structured Interview Protocol help?', co-presented with a police-practitioner, this has led to an invitation to give a similar (keynote) talk at the Annual Police Federation conference in October 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Structured Interview Protocol training 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Structured Interview Protocol training has been delivered to a number of UK police forces, as well as to international companies such as the European Investment Bank, the International Criminal Court, and Amnesty International.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Workshop for PG students at Maastricht University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I was invited to Maastricht University in The Netherlands to train Psychology & Law Post-Graduate students how to use the Structured Interview Protocol.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description iIIRG conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI - Fiona Gabbert - presented the research project to a large group of practitioners and academics. This led to a large amount of interest amongst audience members, and a high potential for new collaborations with international police forces.

Gabbert, F., Hope, L., La Rooy, D. McGregor, A. Milne, R., & Ellis, T. (June, 2016). Introducing a PEACE-compliant 'Structured Interview Protocol' to enhance the quality of investigative interviews. International Investigative Interviewing Research Group conference, London, UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description iIIRG conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A conference presentation (titled - The Structured Interview Protocol: a research-based PEACE-compliant investigative interviewing training programme) was given to an audience of academic researchers and end-user practitioners, leading to multiple requests for additional information, and invitations to present future similar talks and workshops (e.g., in Iceland, in the Netherlands).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017