3 Questions You Can Ask A Customer About Service Animals Criminal Justice Report Writing: Interviewing a Person With Special Needs

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Criminal Justice Report Writing: Interviewing a Person With Special Needs

Police officers often encounter citizens with special needs, such as vision, hearing or mobility problems. These tips will help you conduct an interview efficiently and effectively.

1. Use your voice properly. Many people thoughtlessly start shouting when talking to a person in a wheelchair or someone who cannot see. Speak normally. (The same principle applies when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t know much English. Yelling won’t help!)

2. Maintain eye contact. Sit down if the citizen is lying in bed or sitting in a wheelchair. Direct your questions to the person you are interviewing, not a family member or carer (unless asked to do so).

3. Be respectful. Do not pet or play with a service animal. Get permission before moving or adjusting a wheelchair. Do not bump into or sit on the patient’s bed. Listen patiently to citizens with speech impairments: Do not coach or finish their words or sentences for them. A blind person will appreciate knowing who else is present during an interview.

4. Offer help when needed (but ask first). A blind person may appreciate being gently guided by the elbow. Some hard of hearing people can read lips if the light is good and you are directly in their line of sight. Ask how you can facilitate the interview and follow up when the citizen makes an appropriate suggestion or request.

5. Know the person’s intelligence. It is very easy to patronize or insult a person who has a disability. Use the same vocabulary and sentence structure that you would bring to any interview. For example, it’s okay to use words like “see” and “walk” in a conversation with a blind person or someone in a wheelchair.

6. Don’t jump to conclusions about mental or physical abilities, especially when dealing with a child or an elderly person. A person of almost any age – young or old – can have useful information for you.

7. Arrange to have an adult present when interviewing a child. If privacy is needed, bring the adult close enough to be seen by the child – or delay the interview until you find an adult the child can trust.

8. Be careful when you are talking to a third person – an EMT, chaplain, nurse, firefighter or other officer. Avoid insensitive jokes or profanity that a citizen might overhear. In a hospital room, remember that a patient who appears unconscious can still hear what you are saying.

These simple tips show your professionalism, building trust in you and your agency. Review and practice them until they become second nature: They will serve you well throughout your law enforcement career.

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