Field Interviewing in Four Easy Steps

First Responders: 4 Easy Steps to Field Interviewing

“Who do I interview first?” is the thought that runs through the mind of every first responder at incident scenes. Fire fighters, paramedics, security officers and law enforcement officers are all expected to manage a scene upon their arrival, make critical decisions and formulate an approach to handling the situation. Responders must act quickly in evaluating a situation, isolating the involved parties, deciding the involvement of each person and initiating a field interview. These 4 interviewing decision steps will aid the first responder in that evaluation. Step 1: Scene Information
  • First, we need to use background information, dispatch information and scene evaluations to process the scene mentally.
  • It is at this stage where the responder must triage the scene and all involved persons; that is, decide who needs immediate attention, who can wait and who can be identified for later follow-up.
Step 2: Initial Veracity Assessment
  • First responders must separate and identify the involved persons from passers-by and other curious onlookers.
  • Once separated from each other at the scene, the responder must observe them behaviorally when no applied stress is involved. Make observations regarding their outward demeanor, speech patterns and emotionality.
  • Next, responders must make behavioral observations with mild stress applied, like gentle questioning. How does their behavior change under mild stress? Are speech patterns the same or different?
  • Are their verbal responses appropriate for the situation?
Step 3: Statement Analysis
  • This is where the responder will obtain a written statement from the involved person. Separation of witnesses, victims and suspects by the first responder is a must, no collaborative statements should be tolerated.
  • Any problems identified in the written statements should be apparent and noted.
  • Using a technique known as “Statement Analysis” the first responder will categorize problem statements differently than truthful statements.
Step 4: Interview and Interrogation Techniques
  • Using the above three steps to identify and categorize problem statements and unusual behavior, the first responder will decide whether to let a person go with no further interaction or attempt to interview and interrogate that person.
  • Decision factors will also dictate whether to detain a person at the scene for further questioning.
Use the above 4 steps when responding to an initial scene or critical incident to provide a logical approach for field interviewing.

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