• Investigative empathy: a strength scale of empathy based on European police perspectives

      Baker, Bianca; Bull, Ray; Walsh, Dave; University of Derby; De Montfort University (Taylor and Francis, 2020-05-14)
      A growing body of research suggests that empathy may play a major role in establishing and maintaining rapport during police interviews. The benefits of rapport include not only increased cooperation from interviewees, but also gaining more accurate investigation-relevant information. However, despite a large amount of research on empathy which already exists, there still is, unfortunately, no universally agreed-upon definition and very little research on operationalizing and implementing appropriate forms of empathy, especially within the realm of investigative interviewing. Therefore, the present study was conducted with the goal of better understanding empathy from a police perspective and developing a way to assess and operationalize empathy for use in police interviews with suspects of high risk crimes (particularly with sex offences). The study considers police interviewers’ varying definitions of empathy in seven European countries, along with other factors. It analyzed police interviewers’ self-reports regarding their (i) training and methods employed during interviews, (ii) application of empathy in interviews, and (iii) definitions/understanding of empathy. Based on their answers, the various definitions of empathy were compiled and then placed on a new strength scale. It was found that officers in all participating countries varied within each country in their use of accusatory or information-gathering interview styles, suggesting that the methods employed were not systematically and uniformly taught and/or applied. The majority of participants in each country claimed to currently employ empathy in their interviews with suspects, yet they varied on their strength of the definitions provided. In no country was empathy considered useless in interviews and in no country was empathy defined as having aspects that may not be conducive to investigative interviewing.