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Mastering Effective Interviews: The PEACE Model

Effective Interviews

In the world of investigations and information gathering, interviews play a pivotal role. Whether you're dealing with witnesses, victims, or suspects, the ability to conduct interviews effectively can make all the difference. That's where the PEACE model comes into play. This structured approach, consisting of five key phases—Planning, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure, and Evaluation—provides a comprehensive framework for successful interviews. In this blog post, we will take a deep dive into each phase and show you how to make the most of this powerful interviewing tool.

Planning: The Foundation of a Effective Interview

Understanding the Investigation

Before you even think about conducting an interview, it's crucial to immerse yourself in the investigation. This phase involves reviewing statements, examining documentary records, and possibly consulting with other investigators. Your goal here is to gain a profound understanding of the case, as it will serve as the bedrock for your interview strategy.

Selecting the Right Setting and Time

Location and timing matter significantly in an interview. Carefully consider where the interview should take place—be it at the interviewee's workplace or a controlled environment at your facility. Equally important is the timing. Ensure that the interviewee is in the right mental state to provide valuable information. Asking someone to recall events after a long and tiring day may not yield the best results.

Setting Aims and Objectives

Aims and objectives are your guiding stars during the interview. Aims represent the overarching goals, while objectives are the specific steps needed to achieve those goals. Without a clear roadmap, you risk wandering in the dark during the interview.

Legal Requirements and Points to Prove

Depending on the legal context, you may need to provide cautions or clarify the interviewee's rights at the outset. Additionally, consider the "points to prove" – specific facts necessary to establish a breach or offense related to the allegation under investigation.

Roles and Stakeholders

Identify who will be involved in the interview—the interviewer, note-taker, interpreters, or support persons. Ensure they are qualified for their roles and provide necessary briefings before the interview begins.

Consider Interviewee Characteristics

Take into account the interviewee's age, gender, profile, character, and cultural background. These factors can significantly influence your interview strategy.

Assess Interviewee's Fitness

Ensure the interviewee is in the right physical and mental state for the interview. Avoid scheduling interviews when the interviewee is tired, stressed, or otherwise unfit to concentrate.

Plan for Contingencies

Think ahead about how to handle unexpected situations, such as a hostile representative or a highly emotional interviewee. Preparing for contingencies ensures you can navigate unexpected challenges effectively.

Engage and Explain: Building Trust and Clarity

Creating a Positive Impression

The engagement and explanation phase starts with a warm handshake, an introduction, and a friendly demeanor. This initial interaction sets the tone for the rest of the interview.

Establishing Rapport

Rapport is the cornerstone of a successful interview. It involves creating a natural, conversational interaction with the interviewee, making them feel comfortable and willing to share information.

Explaining the Interview Purpose and Structure

Clearly communicate the reasons for the interview and the likely structure. This step ensures the interviewee understands what to expect, reducing anxiety and uncertainty.

Recording and Consent

If recording is involved, inform the interviewee and ensure you have their consent. Transparency is crucial to building trust.

Checking on Welfare

Before diving into the interview questions, ask the interviewee if they have any concerns or questions. Addressing their worries ensures they can concentrate fully on the interview.

Account: The Heart of the Interview

Choosing an Interview Model

Within the account phase, two interview models can be applied: the Free Recall Model and the Conversation Management Model. Both have their advantages and can be used interchangeably, depending on the situation.

Free Recall Model

Designed to elicit comprehensive narrative accounts, this model uses cognitive interviewing principles to facilitate memory recall. It can lead to obtaining up to 47% more information from an interviewee compared to unstructured approaches.

Conversation Management Model

This model strategically manages conversations, highlighting inconsistencies and strategically using evidence to detect deception. It can increase deception detection by up to 30%.

Closure: Wrapping Up the Interview

Reviewing Aims and Objectives

Before concluding the interview, review your aims and objectives to ensure everything has been covered.

Notifying the Interviewee

Inform the interviewee that the interview is concluding, allowing them to mention any additional information they may have forgotten.

Summarizing and Confirming

Summarize the key points of the interview, allowing the interviewee to correct any inaccuracies. This helps ensure the accuracy of the information gathered.

Explaining What Comes Next

Inform the interviewee about the next steps after the interview and offer an opportunity for questions.

Closing Naturally

End the interview with a neutral conversation topic to re-establish rapport and conclude the conversation naturally.

Evaluation: Learning and Improving

After the interview, take time to evaluate both the interview outcomes and the performance of the interviewing team. Assess what worked well and what could be improved to enhance future interviews.

In conclusion, the PEACE model provides a structured and ethical approach to conducting interviews, whether you're interviewing witnesses, victims, or suspects. By carefully planning, engaging and explaining, accounting for information, closing effectively, and evaluating the process, you can enhance the quality of your interviews and obtain valuable insights in various investigative contexts. Remember, successful interviews are built on trust, clarity, and a well-structured approach.


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