2 Legal Questions You Can Ask 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 sight, hearing, or mobility problems. These tips will help you interview more efficiently and effectively.

1. Use your voice appropriately. Many people shout without thinking when they talk to someone in a wheelchair or someone who cannot see. Speak normally. (The same principle applies when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t speak English. Yelling won’t help!)

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

3. Be respectful. Do not pet or play with a service animal. Get permission before moving or adjusting a bicycle. Do not touch the patient’s bed or sit on it. Listen patiently to citizens with speech impairments: Do not instruct them or finish their words or sentences for them. The blind will appreciate knowing the other person present during the interview.

4. Offer help when needed (but ask first). A blind person can appreciate being gently guided. Some people who are hard of hearing can read if the light is good and is directly in their line of vision. Ask how you can facilitate the discussion, and follow up when the citizen makes a relevant suggestion or question.

5. Acknowledge the person’s wisdom. It is very easy to praise or despise a person with a disability. Use the same vocabulary and sentence structure that you would bring to any interview. For example, it is not appropriate to use words like “see” and “walk” in a conversation with a blind person or someone who sits in a wheelchair.

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

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

8. Be careful when talking to a third person – EMT, chaplain, nurse, firefighter, or other personnel. Avoid jokes or insults that the public can hear. In the hospital room, remember that a patient who appears to be unconscious can still hear what you are saying.

These simple tips highlight your work, 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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