On Being a Good Witness

Constable and K-9 officer Sandra Glendinning recently posted interesting information on her blog regarding being a good witness. View this video that she links from You Tube:

and then go to her post to see how you do with her questions.

Cst. Glendinning is insightful in advocating that police can play a role in educating the public in becoming better witnesses. Historically, researchers have established that the primary element in cases being cleared, drum roll please, is the presence of evidence including witness testimony. Duh right—-now, I will tell you that California borders the Pacific Ocean.

In research from the several years ago, William Spellman and Dale Brown analyzed citizen calls for police service and discussed why victim and witness information was delayed before being received by responding officers. Reasons cited included fear, thinking that the information was unimportant, wanting to verify what they saw before calling, and difficulties in communication. Other authors have empirically shown the value of witness/victim testimony in making arrests—-as it allows patrol officers to solve more cases through immediate criminal charges versus detectives who investigate more incidents involving limited and non-existent witness information.

It is curious why more effort has not been expended by police agencies to educate citizens in becoming better witnesses. With the advent of citizen police academies and the current attention on anti-witness programs like “Snitches Get Stitches,” perhaps the law enforcement community will prioritize training and education for citizens to provide direction as to the information that authorities need to solve crimes.

Unfortunately, the disconnectedness of modern society (referring to more transient communities with neighbors less likely to know each other), fear particularly in urban areas, and the large number of distractions for potential witnesses (cell phone conversations and constant I-Pod listening) will certainly impede this goal.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Slamdunk, thank you for your kind words about my post.

Your own post about this topic is excellent, and I agree that we, the police, should do more to educate the public about certain things they can do to assist in the security of their own communities.


Slamdunk said...

Your welcome Sandra--you are a good writer.