Cops Need Better Tools to Help Victims of Tragedy: Study

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Photo by Ingrid Richter via Flickr

Photo by Ingrid Richter via Flickr

Police can play a greater role in assisting trauma victims even when they are conducting information-gathering interviews, according to a Norwegian study.

While finding a balance between objectivity and support during investigative interviews with trauma victims is a challenge, “improper handling of traumatic topics…can lead to further traumatization,” the authors argued in the study published in the Psychology, Crime & Law Journal, posted online this month.

The study focused on how police officers employed the Norwegian “KREATIV interrogation model” during interviews with highly traumatized youths who witnessed the July 22, 2011 attacks on a summer youth camp on the island of Utøya and an Oslo government building by Anders Behring Brevik, which together claimed 77 lives.

The KREATIV model developed for police interviewers consists of seven steps: communication, rule of law, ethics and empathy, awareness, transparency, information, and scientifically based principles.

The findings of the survey, conducted by Kristina Kepinska Jakobsen, Åse Langballe and Jon-Håkon Schultz, suggest that, because officers identify more with their primary professional role of information-gatherers, they feel less certain of how and when to exploit opportunities to show support.

Officers also reported believing that showing support can have a negative effect on their primary role of interviewers, even though the study found that officers provided support almost intuitively.

Officers showed more empathy and trauma support during the beginning and end of interviews, but were hesitant to do so during the information-gathering phases of the KREATIV model.

Based on the findings of the study, the authors believe a greater emphasis must be given to how police can show support to victims throughout the whole interview, incorporating “both a more comprehensive model and a clearer operationalization of empathy and trauma support within the legal framework.”

Showing support to trauma victims during investigative interviews have been shown to provide therapeutic value and the improper handling of traumatic topics during investigative interviews can lead to further traumatization.

This study is available  for purchase. Journalists can receive a full copy of the report by contacting Alice Popovici at alice@thecrimereport.org. A summary is available here.

This summary was prepared by Davi Hernandez, an intern with The Crime Report.

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