PIP investigations should not be a memory test

27 October 2016

Lorraine Hope speaks at PFEW's PIP seminar

Delegates across policing at the first ever Post-Incident Procedure Seminar, organised by the Police Federation of England & Wales’, have been told that investigations should not be a memory test.

On the second day of the seminar in Leicestershire, Lorraine Hope, Professor of Applied Cognitive Psychology at Portsmouth University, spoke at length about how memory can be distorted based on the incident itself and the events that immediately follow.

Prof Hope spoke alongside Dave Blocksidge from the Police Firearms Officers Association to discuss the issues that can arise when officers are asked to provide statements following an incident.

She said: “A memory is a personal record of people’s experience, and is not the same as objective video or audio recording.

“Memories tend to be incomplete and as a consequence of that, our accounts are incomplete too. A person’s memory is vulnerable and fragile, and can be distorted by events that have happened after an incident. Individuals confuse the source of their memories over time, and most importantly of all we are unlikely to realise that our memory has been distorted in this way.

“Therefore we need to accept that omissions and errors will occur and this does not necessarily reflect reticence or deception.”

“Investigations should not be memory tests – people should be encouraged to recount events as they experienced them.”

Mr Blacksidge illustrated this with a series of clips, one of which was shown in comparison with the statement made by one of the officers involved that differed in terms of some of the finer details.

This shows the value of video technology, such as Body-Worn Video, with Prof Hope adding that the two do not necessarily have to match up perfectly.

The talk followed on from the views of Simon Chesterman on the first day of the seminar, when the National Police Chiefs Council’s lead on firearms spoke of the factors that can cloud an officer’s statement.

“It’s often a traumatic and highly emotional time with someone having potentially lost their life”, he said.