Striking the right balance: police experience, perceptions and use of independent support persons during interviews involving people with intellectual disability


Henshaw, Marie; Spivak, Benjamin; Thomas, Stuart D. M.


Background: Several jurisdictions mandate the presence of an independent support person during police interviews with vulnerable people. The current study investigated police officers’ experiences and perceptions of these volunteers during interviews with people with intellectual disability(ies) (ID). Methods: The sample comprised 229 police officers who attended a mandatory firearms training course in Melbourne, Australia, in 2010.Results: Participants commonly reported utilizing independent support persons and displayed a fair understanding of their role. Overall, volunteers were engaged more frequently than family/friends; police considered the volunteers to be more impartial during interviews, whereas family/friends provided a greater level of emotional support to interviewees. Conclusions: Independent support persons need to demonstrate two quite different types of support to people with intellectual disability(ies) during police interviews; these require quite different skill sets and suggest the need for more tailored training and support for these volunteers. Implications for future research and policy are discussed.

Publication year


Publication type

Journal article


Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 31, no. 2 (Mar 2018), pp. e201-e211




Wiley-Blackwell Publishing


Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.