Tips for Law Enforcement Forensic Interviewers


Action, Clarification


1. Identify the disability(ies) of the interviewee, be familiar with the characteristics of the disability and in particular, typical responses to stress.


You want to know if the person has only a speech production difficulty, or a language disability, mental retardation, mental illness, or a physical disability.


2. Prepare the room for the interview to best accommodate the needs of the subject.


You want plenty of space with no distracting noises or objects in the room. It should allow both for privacy and observation by those on your MDIT.


3. Prior to the interview you have learned the communication differences used by the subject, including need for an interpreter.


If an interpreter is required, a Nationally Certified interpreter should be hired. When the interpreter is present, the seating must be arranged so the client and interviewer can easily see each other, and the client can see the interpreter. Use the standard protocol for working with an interpreter.


4. Prior to the interview a consultation with someone familiar with the subject may be conducted to learn his/her specific

individual idiosyncrasies due to personality, disability and reaction to the trauma.


When stressed the individual may rock, grimace, hum, grind teeth, need to stand and pace. Your familiarity with the

person’s style, and how to effectively respond to the stress will help greatly during the interview.


5. The child can likely tell about the abuse, using her/his communication style.


The child’s communication style may not conform to general expectations. The details of a story may not be in chronological order. Further, the child’s vocabulary may be different from the norm.


6. If the subject uses medication (such as for epilepsy, ADHD, schizophrenia) make sure prior to beginning the interview that she/he has been adequately medicated.


Sometimes the care provider may have suspended medication for their own reason (even to make the person look worse

or better than they really are). The withholding of medication is also considered abusive/neglect and the caretaker/parent should be questioned for their reasons and appropriate action should be taken.


7. When indicators of stress begin say that perhaps it is time to take a break. It is not

necessary to verbally note the subject’s change in behavior. For example, the subject may begin to rock, hum, fidget, lose attention.


Taking a break may be to: stop the conversation, change the topic to one that is non-toxic, or end the interview and reschedule.


8. Make sure you have created an atmosphere that facilitates a sense of safety:


a. No more than one interviewer, although an interpreter may be included.


b. Rarely permit a family member to be present or serve as the interpreter


 c. The room should feel warm, not overly busy, and quiet. Others cannot be viewed by those in the room.


Creating a safe environment includes the whole building, as well as the room. It also includes the transfer from one room to another, and introductions to the people who will be interviewing. One’s apparel (uniform) can be comforting or frightening. And most important, the interviewer’s comfort or discomfort will be quickly noted and understood by the subject, so try to be as confident and at ease as possible.


Baladerian, N.J., Heisler, C., & Hertica, M. (n.d.) Child abuse victims with disabilities: A curriculum for law  enforcement first responders and child protective services frontline workers-participant manual. California: Child abuse and neglect disability outreach program of arc riverside. Retrieved from