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Fight, Flight, Fright: police officers' perceptions interviewing individuals with CCN reporting being victims of crime

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Persons with complex communication needs (CNN) may be involved with the criminal justice system as victims, witnesses or offenders. Police officers need to have sufficient awareness and understanding of what CCN entail and its implications if crimes are to be solved, perpetrators brought to justice and people with CCN treated fairly and justly. A disability sensitivity training programme could assist police officers in improving their attitude, knowledge and skills when taking statements from individuals with CNN who report being the victim of a crime.
AIM: The main aim of this project is to understand and describe police officers’ perceptions and knowledge of CCN.
METHODOLOGY: A mixed methods design with three data sources was used, namely as systematic literature review, a short 10-question questionnaire as well as focus groups with relevant stakeholders.
RESULTS: Police officers may show three different responses: a flight response (wanting to turn a blind eye to the crime and not take a statement); a fight response (becoming aggressive); or a flight response (feeling uncertain and incapable). All three of these responses stem from attitudes and perceptions and are formed by training and experience.
CONCLUSION: Appropriate training may effectively redress misconceptions and attitudes leading to better understanding of persons with CCN, less fear, aggression and avoidance, and ultimately, a better outcome for police officers and persons with CCN who are victims of crime.

Declaration of Interest Statement. The authors disclose they have no financial or other interest in objects or entities mentioned in this paper.


Erna Nel    
University of Pretoria
South Africa

Juan Bornman    
University of Pretoria
South Africa

Kerstin Tonsing    
University of Pretoria
South Africa


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