Date of Award

Fall 12-2017

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 point of contact after an individual is in an accident, needs emergency assistance, or witnesses a crime. In an emergency involving a crime, a dispatcher can play an important role in assisting the investigative process and collecting evidence, such as an eyewitness’ description of the suspect. While trained in how to gather situational and locational information from a caller so that relevant first responders can be notified, dispatchers may not be trained on how the specific language they use with a caller can impact the caller’s memory for the event. Thus, if dispatchers are not being trained on how to interview witnesses, it is possible that dispatchers may engage in the use of techniques and practices, such as asking leading questions, which may potentially result in the alteration or contamination of an eyewitness’ memory. To date, published research has not examined dispatchers’ training and knowledge of the potential influences they could have on an eyewitness’ memory and recollections of an event. The current study aimed to fill in this knowledge gap through a survey methodology of 911 dispatchers in three jurisdictions in the United States. The results demonstrated that while a majority of the respondents had received over 26 hours of job training, and are required to complete additional training throughout their career, they had insufficient knowledge of the factors that influence eyewitness accuracy. A majority of the participants recognized their role as an evidence collector, however, they did not recognize the potential harm that “leading” language can have on memory, as well as the susceptibility of an eyewitness’ memory to contamination. Future directions are discussed.

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