Advanced Arrest, Search & Seizure (Lesson 30 of 31)
Statements from other witnesses are very important. In many cases, you will not be the first person to notice a suspect’s criminal activity. It is crucial that you listen to the statements of witnesses and investigate when notified of potential criminal activity.
Additionally, much like statements from a suspect, it is important for a security officer to write down all witness statements as accurately as possible. Witness statements will assist in the investigation of criminal activity and will also assist law enforcement in determining whether to make an arrest and/or bring criminal charges against a suspect.
When taking down witness statements, make sure to obtain contact information from that witness so that law enforcement officials are able to contact that person (if necessary) at a later date. While it is important for you to write down witness statements, those written statements are considered hearsay and the prosecution will not be able to use them at trial should criminal charges be brought against the suspect. However, if you obtain accurate contact information from those witnesses, then they can be called to testify at trial against the suspect.
As previously noted, statements made by a person outside of the courtroom are considered hearsay and are generally not admissible as evidence. So why bother to take down witness statements? It is to keep the witnesses honest! If they testify differently from the statement they gave to you, then (and only then) you can take the witness stand yourself and testify as to what the witness told you immediately following the incident.
This is called “impeachment of a witness.” So the prior statement, even though technically “hearsay,” is still allowed in court to show that the witness was inconsistent with his or her own previous statements. Jurors and judges are allowed to consider such inconsistencies in determining the credibility of a witness.
Thus, it is very important that you obtain the statements either directly from the witness’ own writing, or if you are going to write down what was said, try to do it as soon as possible after the witness made the statement so it is still fresh in your mind. Also, try to use the witness’ own words, whenever possible.
(Capturing witness statements is covered in the training module discussing report writing. It is important for you to know, however, just how such documentation plays out in the courtroom.)
However, it is important to remember that only statements that are voluntarily given are admissible. A coerced statement, whether by physical force or psychological coercion, lacks credibility. This is the basis behind the Miranda Warnings, and the reason why we do not allow such statements into evidence at trial.