Date of Award

Summer 8-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

Forensic Psychology

Language

English

First Advisor

Jennifer Dysart

Second Reader

Steven Penrod

Third Advisor

Charles Stone

Abstract

911 dispatchers are often the first contact in an emergency, playing a critical role in the investigative process. Presently, a new bill is seeking to nationally reclassify these communications officers, recognizing them as vital first responders, as their initial collection of eyewitness evidence aid in the attainment of crucial information and detailed descriptions of an accident or crime. However, only one study (Kassis, 2017), to date, has examined the training of 911 dispatchers, as well as their self-reported knowledge of the potential influences their language could have on an eyewitness’ memory. While this research highlighted disparities between the perceived role of a dispatcher and the adequacy of their knowledge on eyewitness evidence collection, our overall understanding of these concepts is in its infancy. The current study is a replication and extension of Kassis (2017), aimed to fill this knowledge gap through a survey methodology of 911 dispatchers. Similar to Kassis (2017), the results demonstrated that while a majority of the respondents recognized their role as evidence collectors, they had insufficient knowledge of the fragility of eyewitness memory, specifically the potential harm that “leading” language and post-event information can have on the accuracy of an eyewitness account. Therefore, training and knowledge regarding the collection and preservation of eyewitness memory appears to be largely absent or inadequate among dispatchers. Future directions and potential solutions to this problem are discussed.

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