Kevin Ian Schmidt

PEACE Method of Investigative Interviews- Overview

A number of police forces through the world are using a model of investigative interviews that is more information gathering as compared to obtaining a confession from a suspect. As we in the safety world are concerned with gathering information following an accident I thought the technique might be of interest to readers. The method incorporated is what I’ve been teaching for years, but the use of the mnemonic PEACE brings all the ideas together nicely.

P – Preparation and planning
E – Engage and explain
A – Account
C – Closure
E – Evaluate

I’ve deleted some police/legal concepts from the web based material and added a few comments of my own.

P – Preparation & Planning

Crucial elements of good planning and preparation for an interview situation include:

  • Understanding the purpose of the interview;
  • Defining the aims and objectives of the interview;
  • Understanding and recognizing the points to prove or to clarify;
  • Assessing what evidence is available and from where it can be obtained;
  • Assessing what evidence is needed and how it can be obtained;
  • Preparing the mechanics of the interview (stationery, exhibits, location etc).

E – Engage & Explain

PEACE interviewsThese two terms also known as ‘Interview Preamble’ refers to early phases within the actual interview and is defined as follows:

The essential element of engagement is an introduction appropriate to the circumstances of the interview. It is desirable that a proper relationship is formed between the interviewer and interviewee. This requires, for example, that the interviewer develops an awareness of, and is able to respond to, the welfare needs of the interviewee and any particular fears and expectations.

The engage phase is followed by the explanation phase in which the investigator should outline the reasons for the interview and explain what kinds of action will be followed during the interview, particularly the routines.

A – Account

This term describes the stage in which the interviewee’s recollection of the events of interest is obtained. This stage is directed at obtaining the fullest possible account from the suspect. There are two accepted approaches of inducing recollection known as:

  • The Cognitive approach;
  • Conversation management.

Different techniques for assisting recollection are associated with each method. With the cognitive method, the interviewee is asked to think back and mentally relive the event, initially with minimal interference from the interviewing officer. The interviewer does not interrupt, makes effective use of pauses and avoids leading questions. The interviewee is then encouraged to recall the event again using a different chronological order, or from a different perspective.

When the conversation management method is used, the interviewee is asked first to say what happened and the interviewer then subdivides the account into a number of individual parts which are enquired about in turn for further details.

The cognitive method provides the interviewee with greater control over the way the interview develops, whereas conversation management attributes more authority to the interviewer. This basic difference between the two approaches broadly defines when each is most appropriately used. For example, conversation management may be more appropriate for reluctant interviewees than the cognitive method.

C – Closure

To avoid immediate or future problems with the relationship formed between the interviewer and interviewee, investigators should ensure that, at the end of an interview:

  • interviewees are thanked before leaving;
  • everyone understands what has happened during the interview;
  • everyone understands what will happen in the future.

Closure should also include elements such as giving the interviewee the opportunity to ask any questions. It is crucial that the interviewer always ensures that there is a planned closure, rather than an impromptu end, to the interview. The interviewer should summarize and check back as to what the witness has said.

E – Evaluate

After each interview is completed, the event and the material that came from it should be evaluated fully. The first consideration is whether the objectives of the interview were achieved. Decisions must then be made about whether any further interview is required or whether other inquiries need to be made. Evaluation can also help interviewers to improve their interviewing skills. To this end, they should take the opportunity to reflect on their personal performance and identify areas for future development or improvement.

 

When conducting an investigative interview, you also need to be aware of the non-verbal indicators.

Understanding the PEACE Method is an important part of an investigative interview, but know the Factors to consider in an investigative interview is equally important in being successful when using the PEACE Method.

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