In this paper I discuss the many complexities that police officers have to deal with in their communication with
suspects. Investigative interviewing is a very complex communicative situation in itself, with a number of different psychological
and sociological variables at play during each interview. In addition, suspect interviews bring about an additional dimension of
complexity, which is driven by the fact that a basic principle of conversation, cooperation (Grice 1975) is often not respected and is sometimes severely and purposefully violated,
for example when suspects are guilty and want to obscure that very fact or when they believe that their situation would worsen if
they cooperated with the police. A further layer of complexity is added when the interviews are carried out via an interpreter,
where the fact that the officer and the suspect speak different languages during the interview creates additional barriers to
In the present paper, I identify a number of points at which communication difficulties are encountered in this
highly sensitive legal context. For this purpose, I analyse authentic interview datasets provided by two UK police constabularies,
and also make comparisons with examples from transcripts of authentic US police interrogations. In addition, I highlight the
issues that arise when professional interpretation is not available and when bilingual police officers assume the dual role of
investigator-interpreter. Finally, I suggest possible solutions that can help remove the hurdles standing in the way of efficient and
accurate gathering of communication evidence.
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Cited by 4 other publications
2019. Bilingualism in Action,
2022. The tale of two countries. Interpreting. International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting 24:2 ► pp. 254 ff.
2022. Language and Culture as Sources of Inequality in US Police Interrogations. Applied Linguistics 43:6 ► pp. 1073 ff.
2022. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Miscommunication in UK Police Interviews and US Police Interrogations. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology 37:2 ► pp. 297 ff.
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