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Policy Recommendations for Cultural Humility Practices in Police Witness Interviews

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Cultural differences between police officers and the communities in which they serve and protect are increasingly receiving more scrutiny. Both uniformed officers and police leadership have identified cultural awareness and related available training as barriers to serving their communities (Fletcher et al., 2019: Holohan, 2019). Cultural competence is defined by the achievement of skills, attitudes, values, and beliefs which are apparent in individuals and organizations to help navigate unique characteristics among diverse populations. Cultural humility places more emphasis on attitudes and approaches of openness, self-reflection, mutual understanding, and life-long learning rather than an outcome of achievement (Fletcher et al., 2019; Molinaro et al., 2019; Nguyen et al., 2021). Whether striving for cultural competence or cultural humility, prior research indicates the importance of training and socialization tactics, regardless of the specific framework (Fletcher et al., 2019; Khoury et al., 2021).
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Cultural differences between police
officers and the communities in which
they serve and protect are increasingly
receiving more scrutiny.
Both uniformed officers and police
leadership have identified cultural
awareness and related available training
as barriers to serving their communities
(Fletcher et al., 2019: Holohan, 2019).
Cultural competence is defined by the
achievement of skills, attitudes, values,
and beliefs which are apparent in
individuals and organizations to help
navigate unique characteristics among
diverse populations.
Cultural humility places more emphasis
on attitudes and approaches of
openness, self-reflection, mutual
understanding, and life-long learning
rather than an outcome of achievement
(Fletcher et al., 2019; Molinaro et al.,
2019; Nguyen et al., 2021).
Whether striving for cultural competence
or cultural humility, prior research
indicates the importance of training and
socialization tactics, regardless of the
specific framework (Fletcher et al., 2019;
Khoury et al., 2021).
THE ISSUE
Figure: Percentage of trained and untrained police officers who
created a relaxing & positive space in interviews and ended
interviews effectively. Source of Data: MacDonald et al., 2017
To create a standardized training policy
based in cultural humility that would
build on cognitive interviewing tactics,
bringing in non-law enforcement
perspectives can enhance cultural
humility and competence in
departments.
Mirroring therapeutic best practices,
inclusive intake forms and other
information gathering tools can increase
solutions-focused, relationship-building
questioning (“how can we help?”)
versus problem-based questioning
(“what seems to be the issue?”), and
build on open-ended questions to allow
those impacted by crime to define
themselves by asking about pronouns,
language in which they are most fluent
and comfortable, who else lives at
home, etc. (Liang & Shepherd, 2020).
Additionally, specializing training by
specific issues or populations, rather
than simply based on seniority of
service in interviewing, can be of use
because it may impact the quality of the
interview experience (Derous, 2017).
In-person mandated training can be
difficult for professionals like police,
however, a policy that relies on a hybrid
curriculum of self-paced, virtual
modules, and follow-up in-person
discussions may be effective.
Allowing personal learning virtually,
online simulated role plays, and time for
self-reflection, followed by discussions
can lead to safer exchanges about
culturally-charged topics (Egonsdotter et
al., 2020; Holohan, 2019).
Such training can ideally lead to better
and more culturally competent
interactions between police officers and
the communities they serve.
Derous, E. (2017). Ethnic minorities’ impression
management in the interview: Helping or hindering?
Frontiers in Psychology, 8.
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00086
Egonsdotter, G., Bengtsson, S., Israelsson, M., &
Borell, K. (2020). Child protection and cultural
awareness: Simulation-based learning. Journal of
Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work:
Innovation in Theory, Research & Practice, 29(5),
362-376.
https://doi.org/10.1080/15313204.2018.1493013
Fletcher, M., Burnside, R., & Pink-Harper, S. (2019).
Determining the level of cultural competence of
college police departments: A study of three
different campuses Journal of Public Management
& Social Policy, 26(1)73-88.
Holohan, A. (2019). Transformative training in soft
skills for peacekeepers: Gaming for peace.
International Peacekeeping, 26(5), 556-578.
https://doi.org/10.1080/13533312.2019.1623677
Khoury, N. M., Suser, J. L., Germain, L. J., Myers, K.,
Brown, A. E., & Lu, F. G. (2021). A study of a
cultural competence and humility intervention for
third-year medical students. Academic Psychiatry.
https:/doi.org/10.1007/s40596-021-01518-8
Liang, Y. & Shepherd, M. A. (2020). A multicultural
content analysis of mental health private practices’
websites and intake forms. Professional
Psychology: Research and Practice, 51(4), 325-
334. https://doi.org/10.1037/pro0000305
MacDonald, S., Snook, B., & Milne, R. (2017). Witness
interview training: A field evaluation. Journal of
Police and Criminal Psychology, 32(1), 77-84.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-016-9197-6
Molinaro, P. F., Fisher, R. P., Mosser, A., E. & Satin, G.
E. (2019). Trainthetrainer: Methodology to learn
the cognitive interview. Journal of Investigative
Psychology and Offender Profiling, 16(1), 32-43.
https://doi.org/10.1002/jip.1518
Nguyen, P. V., Naleppa, M., & Lopez, Y. (2021).
Cultural competence and cultural humility: a
complete practice. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural
Diversity in Social Work, 30(3), 273-281.
https://doi.org/10.1080/15313204.2020.1753617
Tipton, R. (2021). ‘Yes I understand’: Language
choice, question formation and code-switching in
interpreter-mediated police interviews with victim-
survivors of domestic abuse. Police Practice &
Research, 22(1), 1058-1076.
https:/doi.org/10.1080/15614263.2019.1663733
Catherine C. Wemette & Kristine M. Jacquin
Fielding Graduate University
Policy Recommendations for Cultural Humility
Practices in Police Witness Interviews
REFERENCES
RECOMMENDATIONS (cont.)
CURRENT STATE (cont.)
CURRENT STATE
In examining typical policing interactions
where cultural sensitivity and humility
may be most beneficial, witness
interviewing is commonly mentioned
(Fletcher et al., 2019; Tipton, 2021).
RECOMMENDATIONS
While information gathering is the
primary purpose of interviewing those
impacted by crimes, using a cognitive
interview approach relies on more open-
ended questions, leading to less bias
and more opportunity for witnesses to
share details as accurately as possible,
rather than being influenced by the
interviewer (Molinaro, 2019).
This approach aligns well with care-
oriented interviewing, when witnesses
take the lead on pertinent details,
allowing for healing to occur as well as
knowledge transfer (Tipton, 2021).
When examining interviewing
techniques, trained officers outperform
their non-trained counterparts, and while
officers are aware of scientifically proven
methodologies, less than 15% of
investigators reported receiving training
on these methods (MacDonald et al.,
2017; Molinaro et al., 2019).
American College of Forensic Psychology 2022
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Determining the level of cultural competence of college police departments: A study of three different campuses
  • M Fletcher
  • R Burnside
  • S Pink-Harper
Fletcher, M., Burnside, R., & Pink-Harper, S. (2019). Determining the level of cultural competence of college police departments: A study of three different campuses Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, 26(1)73-88.