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Interviewing Witnesses - 14167_68
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Determining the Sequence of Events
three may have compared stories. The fourth may have been too far from a 1MC speaker. Interviewers  who  have  the  following  types  of personalities  can  also  influence  a  witness: Commanding-type-overbearing    Proud, overconfident (“COLUMBO complex”)      Overly eager     Timid, insecure, insincere   Prejudiced Manipulative The interviewer’s body language can intimidate witnesses or set them at ease. When interviewing, sit on the same level as the witness, not above. Offer the witness a soft drink or cup of coffee. Use a quiet place, such as an office or stateroom, to conduct the interview, not a crowded lunchroom. If a male is interviewing a female (or vice versa), the interviewer should ensure the door remains open and the place is not secluded. Make sure  you  are  not  interrupted  during  the  interview. Interview  one-on-one—avoid  ganging  up  on  a  witness with  two  or  three  investigators. INTERVIEW-DO  NOT  INTERROGATE! Be sincere and friendly to your witnesses. Provide a phone number where you can be reached if they wish to add something they forgot to their testimony. Explain the purpose of your investigation. Do not argue with your witnesses. Before  your  interviews,  you  should  preplan  a  few common  questions.  Asking  each  witness  a  few  similar questions  can  help  determine  if  the  witness’s  account  is believable.  Write  down  pertinent  questions  about  which a particular witness may have information. Have a basic understanding  of  the  equipment,  material,  and procedures  surrounding  the  mishap.  If  you  are  not familiar with how a band saw works, you may not be able to ask pertinent questions about how the victim used the saw. Ask neutral questions. Ask questions that require explanations, not just a yes or no answer. Listen, and permit  silent  periods.  Do  not  rush  your  witness.  Keep the interview on track. Solicit a witness’s assistance and recommendations to prevent recurrence of the mishap. Always  start  with  the  same  question:  WHAT  FIRST ATTRACTED   YOUR   ATTENTION   TO   THE MIHSHAP? You may want to use a visual orientation to jog the witness’s memory. If not too traumatic, take the witness to the mishap scene. Let the witness explain what happened, who was standing where, and what his  or  her  actions  were.  First  refresh  the  witness’s memory at the scene; then conduct the interview. Be sensitive to your witness. A witness who saw a friend injured or killed may be too upset to provide much testimony. If you want to interview a victim in the hospital, check with the physician first to see if an interview would harm the victim. Go to the hospital sometime other  than  regular  visiting  hours.  Relatives  of  the victim  may  be  hostile,  press  for  information,  or  upset the victim. Relatives may try to blame you or your command for hurting their loved one. In an informal interview you listen to the witness and take notes. Although a witness may draw a scene or   write   down   a   sequence   of   events,   a   local   or command mishap investigation does not use Advice to  Witnesses  forms  or  take  written  statements. A mishap investigation board does use the Advice to Witnesses form and can ask for a written statement. A witness who is reluctant to write a statement may record  or  dictate  the  statement.  Review  dictated statements  with  the  witness.  Have  a  recorded statement  transcribed;  then  review  it  with  the  witness. Let witnesses know that you may call them in later to  reinterview  them  or  ask  them  more  questions. Encourage witnesses to add to their testimony later, as well. An  interview  has  four  phases: First phase—Free narrative Second phase—Repeat the story Third  phase—Review  the  information Fourth phase—Clear up inconsistencies Once  you  have  interviewed  and  reinterviewed  your witnesses, then you must analyze their information. 4-13

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