OBSERVATION & DOCUMENTATION (Lesson 23 of 26)
An effective opening statement without directing or prejudicing the witnesses is to say, “Tell me what happened!” Often, other witnesses present will interpret and interject their own opinions of what happened. If possible, walk away from the other witnesses in order that the main witness can talk without interruption. If this is not possible, you may have to ask the other witnesses to please be quiet until you have an opportunity to talk with each of them. If the witness is upset or extremely excited you may have to continue to prompt them with additional questions such as, “What happened next? Then what?” “What did the person do or say then?” This type of interview may continue for several minutes.
Once the witness has completed telling his/her story, you should repeat the story based upon what you’ve written in your notes. Any changes in the story should be marked with an asterisk * to remind you that a portion of the story changed. This may not necessarily indicate the person is lying. However, it may reflect that the facts are not as clear as first thought.
After the main witness or complainant has been interviewed, other witnesses must be interviewed until everyone has been spoken to concerning the incident. In many situations, because of time constraints and/or the number of witnesses involved, more than one security officer will be required to conduct the interviews. Therefore, it becomes critical that each officer explore the interviews in similar fashion to be certain as many facts as possible are gathered. Remember, you are on a fact finding mission. Obtain as much information as possible. Normally, it is at this time when witnesses will be the most cooperative and truthful.
Maintain Scene & Protect Evidence
When dealing with incidents which may be criminal in nature, it is extremely important to attempt to gather as much evidence as possible. The job of the security officer in attaining this objective may be extremely difficult. Fingerprints, footprints, tire marks, torn clothing, etc. which may be essential in a criminal investigation may be altered or destroyed unintentionally, especially if first aid must be rendered to victims. As security officers become more proficient in responding to crime scenes, valuable evidence can be preserved prior to the arrival of the police.
As quickly as possible, a security officer must attempt to cordon off the area from sightseers and people who are just simply curious. Three inch wide yellow and black tape provides a good resource in notifying sightseers to refrain from crossing into the crime scene area. Careful attention should be given to not disturb any possible evidence with exposed hands or fingers. Often, the main responsibility of a security officer will be to maintain the integrity of the crime scene until the police arrive.
Security officers who work for banks, museums, hospitals and/or colleges will usually be more familiar with crime scenes due to the nature of their jobs as opposed to security officers who work in manufacturing or office facilities. In addition, officers in manufacturing and office settings may not have the frequent contact with the public.