Monday, February 2, 2015

"Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview" (FETI): Why an article on this unique method for conducting interviews in sex crime investigations published by a Portland, Oregon street newspaper Street Roots News) caught my attention! (Harold Levy. Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog);

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Every once in a while I am confronted with information, an article, a report, or a study,  that makes me pause for a moment or two,  and say to myself,  "Hmmmm. Most interesting  indeed!" The following  recently published article, published by "Street Roots News"  falls in this category.  Street Roots News  says it  "creates income opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and poverty by producing a newspaper and other media that are catalysts for individual and social change." I am intrigued for several reasons: First, I had never heard of "the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview", or "FETI," which is the subject of the article -  described as a "technique  (that) can be broken down into three basic steps designed to enable the officer to collect as much forensic psychophysiological evidence as possible." Second: The article says that "most officers" investigating sex crimes have been using the  controversial Reid Technique of interrogation on complainants. That's news to me!  (I have seen many critiques of The Reid Technique. This is the first time that I have heard an allegation that  it can traumatize a complainant in a sex crime investigation.)  Third: There is a reference to the job of the officer  conducting a FETI interview as  "taking a disjointed story and translating it into a report that makes sense,” he says. Hmmm. I was taught in Criminal Procedure 101 that the police investigator's  job was to get a straight forward narrative to determine whether a  criminal charge is to be laid, and, if so, for use in court.  That's why the idea of a police officer  filling in the blanks and  "translating" what the subject was saying caught my attention. Four:  We are told that the FETI technique is being viewed favourably by U.S Army investigators and that "It's quickly taking hold in other branches of the military as well." Hmmmmm! Five: A police officer who is reported to lead a sex crimes unit  and has taken a course on FETI, is reported  as saying  that exhibiting signs of the neurobiology of trauma can make a victim appear more believable - and that these signs can then aid the prosecution, serving as psychophysiological evidence that the victim actually experienced a violent attack. This also had my wheels spinning. Aren't we in a bit of trouble when a police officers entrusted with the task of determining whether a crime has occurred see their job as being to make  a victim appear more believable  - and when, after taking a course, police officers use "signs of the neurobiology of trauma" to "aid the prosecution" by "serving as psychophysiological evidence that the victim actually experienced a violent attack?" I hope this post will not be seen as an attack on FETI as, until I read this article I knew absolutely nothing about it - and I know nothing more than what I read. There is no doubt in mind  that FETI is well-motivated, and that it has been set up to overcome serious barriers that victims of violent crimes are all too often confronted with. I am just trying to  describe my initial reaction and to bring FETI to the attention of the readers of this Blog.  True, the article wasn't published by  the New York Times or the Washington Post. Wikipedia tells us that Street Roots News  is a biweekly street newspaper published in Portland, Oregon, United States. The paper is sold by members of the local homeless community and is published every two weeks on a Friday. Vendors receive 75 cents for every $1 paper they sell. The paper features alternative news, interviews, and poetry written by local journalists as well as people experiencing homelessness or working with the homeless." I  am a fan and supporter  of street newspapers. They assist  the homeless - and I often find their articles, like this one, to be interesting,  informative and provocative.   Occasionally they run content that you don't find in the mainstream media.  So Bravo to author Emily Green and Street Roots News. You certainly caught my attention!

STORY: "How understanding the neurobiology of trauma helps Portland police work with domestic violence survivors," by Emily Green, published by Street Roots on January 20, 2015. (Street Roots  News is a biweekly street newspaper published in Portland, Oregon, United States.)

GIST:  "The cases the domestic violence team cannot take on fall to other PPB (Portland Police Bureau) officers. However, Portland’s domestic violence team has an advantage that other officers, and in fact the majority of police across the country do not. They underwent a specialized training last summer on what some are calling a revolution in the way investigators interview violent crime victims — which can be key to ultimately closing a case......... Mason says that while his officers already had a basic understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, his squad got a better understanding of the physiology of trauma and has incorporated things they learned from attending this unique brand of training, created by Russell Strand, in August. PPB’s Sex Crimes Unit will receive an abbreviated version of the same training later this month at a seminar put on by the Oregon attorney general’s office. Strand is a former military police investigator and current chief of Behavioral Sciences Education and Training Division at the Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He has turned an approach psychiatrists have been using since the dawn of modern psychology into a program that teaches criminal investigators how to interview trauma victims. It’s called the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview, or FETI. The technique can be broken down into three basic steps designed to enable the officer to collect as much forensic psychophysiological evidence as possible. The first step is genuine empathy, as Strand explains that victims should never be treated as witnesses to their own crime. The second step is this question: Help me understand what you are able to remember about your experience. And finally, shut up and listen. As Mason explains it, a trauma victim’s memory is “like a jigsaw puzzle that’s been thrown into the air. The puzzle pieces land all over the place.” He says it’s up to the detective to collect the pieces from the victim as they are disseminated, sorting out the important pieces that help reveal the story. “It’s taking a disjointed story and translating it into a report that makes sense,” he says."

The entire story can be found at:


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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

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Posted By Harold Levy to the charles smith blog at 2/02/2015 04:55:00 PM