Police perceptions of eyewitness memory impairment due to drug and alcohol use

Dr Lauren Monds1

1University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Many violent offences are committed by and committed against people who are intoxicated by one or more substances. Although police frequently interact with intoxicated witnesses and victims, little is known about police views on memory reliability and credibility. This is particularly the case for substances other than alcohol. This study explored Australian Federal Police views on the role of multiple different substances (alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines, sedatives, opiates) in terms of impact on memory and credibility. The study also investigated how police officers determine whether and by what substances members of the public are intoxicated. Most police believed witness accuracy is at least moderately influenced by alcohol and they viewed alcohol-intoxicated witnesses as less credible. Less strong beliefs were reported for the other substances. Alcohol intoxication was rated easiest to detect, but more training may be required for detecting other substances. This research has important implications for practice in terms of whether it is appropriate to treat all intoxicated persons the same regardless of substance consumed, or whether a more nuanced approach is required.


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