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View Full Version : taking witness statements


kitken
08-25-06, 04:42 PM
Hi,
is there a standard procedure for taking witness statements? I was wondering if it is just individual or do some departments have SOPs regarding how notes are taken, how they are transcribed, the time and date etc. Are officer's notes used as evidence?

thanks,
Kat


Kimble
08-25-06, 05:31 PM
Hi,
is there a standard procedure for taking witness statements? I was wondering if it is just individual or do some departments have SOPs regarding how notes are taken, how they are transcribed, the time and date etc. Are officer's notes used as evidence?

thanks,
Kat

There's probably good and bad ways to do it, and even SOP's elsewhere, but I'm not aware of any with our department. The last time I wrote witness statements was when I interviewed neighbors on a call when a nut-job decided to pop off rounds at municipal cops who answered a Shots Fired call at his residence. I took down what the neighbors saw, when they were there, what they heard, etc. No "formal" form used, just a regular notepad. My interview notes where then used to write the actual incident report (I/O report) by another deputy.

Other department may have other procedures, though.

RO56
08-25-06, 05:40 PM
Hi,
is there a standard procedure for taking witness statements? I was wondering if it is just individual or do some departments have SOPs regarding how notes are taken, how they are transcribed, the time and date etc. Are officer's notes used as evidence?

thanks,
KatOur policy is: hand the witness a pen and witness statement form (or pad of paper), and let THEM write it.


phantasm
08-25-06, 05:48 PM
in the report "witness states blah blah blah"

If the detectives want to follow up and get a formal statement, then they do that after the report is taken.

ngcsubutterbar
08-25-06, 05:52 PM
You know what really irked me. Some trooper from the GSP actually thought this was an ok thing and handed it to some deputy to in turn give it to me during shift change. It was a simple accident. That GSP guy, or anyone for that matter, says they witnessed an accident. You know what the first thing on the witness statement usually is. In many variations it's always the same.


"I heard a large crash then I looked up and saw the vehicles..."





To answer your other questions, yes our issued notepads can be subpeoned by the lawyers during court. That's why I always used my own.

Ironhead
08-25-06, 06:14 PM
I knew a guy that initially wrote his DUI notes on the palm of his hand, he later transcribed them to the DUI checklist he used. In court, he had only one set of notes, so it could never be said that the field notes in the field notebook, had different information than the DUI checklist that he filled out.

Worked OK for him - but I don't like writing on my hand .... to me it looks unprofessional

sgtbear111
08-25-06, 08:30 PM
I found a small voice recorder of great value. I would record the tape ID and topic headers, then ask some open ended questions and let the person talk. As to handing them pen and paper, my experience was there are a number of illiterates out there, and they need to be kept on topic. A witness atatement is great for building PC, and establish the elements of the offense. Critical - getting the witness statements before they have the opportunity to discuss the incident with someone else, get threatened by the suspect, or decide they "dont want to get involved".

One thing about witnesses, they are potential suspects. I have had several overly sincere "good citizen" witnesses turn out to be the suspect, or one of a group of suspects. So talk to those witnesses. Evaluate what they say, how it is said, and their level of knowledge of the incident.

kels
08-26-06, 01:16 AM
Witness statements are wonderful:D
It is amazing to hear how something happened and
then read the same persons statement.

I once worked a ONE vehicle accident in a parking lot.
Kid driving across the parking lot hit a concrete light pole base.
He rights a great statement and finishes it with.
"but this accident is not my fault"

I looked at him with a straight face and said to him.

Yep, we see that a lot, the light pole just jumped out in front of you.

GEESH............................................. ......

mobrien316
08-26-06, 11:03 AM
Witness statements can be helpful or useless.

It depends on two things: the ability of the witness to relate what they saw and the interviewing ability of the officer taking the statement.

Sometimes you have utter freaking morons who claim to have seen or heard something. Even if you try to walk them through it at a speed roughly equivilent to plate tectonics you wind up with something like, "I didn't not see no what you couldn't do or nothing."
(Which is a direct quote of the most intelligible thing the idiot said during a twenty minute interview.)

Other times you have intelligent, articulate people and an officer who either doesn't give a damn or who never learned to take a decent statement. Then you get a witness statement to an armed robbery that reads something like, "The guy pointed a gun and grabbed the money and left. End of statement."
(That's how the officer paraphrases a twenty minute interview complete with the witness drawing sketches and handing over notes they made of the vehicle involved and the names the bad guys were calling each other during the robbery.)

Cat_Doc
08-27-06, 02:14 PM
This is not actually answering the original post and is more in response to LEO remarks.

After recently receiving some advanced training in "statement analysis" (psycholinguistic patterning) I thrive on written statements and transcribed interviews. The investigating officer's report should build the elements of the crime and probable cause, but suspect/witness statements in their unedited form is gold.

I will not discuss tactics of psycholinguists in a public forum, but it is a very exiting tool for an old dog like me. Anyone else who has had the training will surely agree. ;)