Study finds UK police interview process lacking for people with autism

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnited Kingdom – A new study found that current UK police interview practices do not work well for people with autism. The study was conducted by Medical Xpress’s Department of Psychology and was funded by the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC).

In the study researchers Dr. Katie Maras from the DOP and Dr. Laura Crane from City of London, sat down with about 400 UK police officers of various rankings to find out their current interview techniques for victims, witnesses, and suspects. Usually, they like to start with open ended questions and then later move on to closed questions. But for those on the spectrum, studies have found, this has proven ineffectual.

Medical Xpress sat down with Dr. Maras who commented that:

“As part of this study we have heard of many cases where problems have arisen because police and other criminal justice professionals know very little about autism.”

Later adding that studies of this nature, while new, aim to help police get the evidence they need sooner, while also retaining credibility of the person they got it from.

One of biggest challenges the study found was the inability to develop strong rapports with interviewees, something that helps comfortably extract the information they need. There is also a huge lack in suitable interview space.

Dr. Maras further added:

“Police stations tend to be noisy with bright or flickering lighting and strange smells. But people with autism are often sensitive to sensory input and as a result they can struggle to maintain concentration in interviews”

The study did note that officers who have someone on the spectrum close to them, such as a good friend or family member, reported better outcomes in their interviews.

The good news is that there may be simple fixes to this complex problem. For one, officers should stick to using closed questions to avoid confusion. For another, and more important fix, information on the person’s autism diagnosis should be provided so others can ascribe their unusual behaviors or mannerisms to the diagnosis rather then to unreliability.

The original article on the Medical XPress website can be found here

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead