Date of Award

Spring 6-15-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

Forensic Psychology

Language

English

First Advisor

Jennifer Dysart

Second Reader

Jennifer Dysart

Abstract

911 dispatchers are often the first point of contact for witnesses to crimes. Dispatchers have an important role in collecting information related to a witness’ observations and recollection of events, and this information can serve as primary evidence in criminal cases. Therefore, it is crucial that evidence collected from eyewitnesses is as accurate and detailed as possible. In the present study, we investigated defense attorneys’ perceptions on how dispatchers gather information from eyewitnesses during 911 calls, because little is known with respect to how defense attorneys review, use, and challenge 911 calls. Using an online survey, we asked defense attorneys from the National Forensic College to answer questions regarding their experiences with what dispatchers usually ask eyewitness callers. This research highlighted disparities between attorneys’ observations of dispatcher practices through their experiences with reviewing 911 transcripts, and dispatcher reports of their practices as investigated in previous research. The results demonstrated that even though both attorneys and dispatchers concur that dispatchers are evidence collectors, very few attorneys believed that it is a dispatcher’s responsibility to obtain detailed perpetrator descriptions and few participants reported that dispatchers actually do this, contrary to what dispatchers say they do (Dysart & Kassis, 2018). Our findings also indicate that attorneys do not always ask if a 911 call was made in their case and when they do ask, the calls have often already been deleted. Finally, we provide suggestions for future studies that we expect will shape the direction of this burgeoning field.

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