Intertextuality in police interrogations

Tessa Cyrina van Charldorp

Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands, The


Intertextuality in police interrogations

This poster presentation aims to display some differences between the spoken interaction in Dutch police interrogations and the written records drawn up from these interrogations. Two types of major differences between the interrogation and the record can be distinguished: A) information given in the police record that cannot be literally traced back to the interrogation; B) information given in the interrogation that is not found in the police record.

Written police records are constructed by police officers while verbally interrogating the suspect. One can speak of an ‘on-line’ construction of a written document with little time for editing. While the police officer is engaging in a verbal dialogue, the officer needs to create an on-line written monologue written from the suspect’s perspective. This is in line with the legal requirement that the suspect’s statement should be recorded in the police record as much as possible in the suspect’s own words. It is inevitable that changes such as deletion, addition, selection and transformation occur when moving from the verbal interrogation to the written record (Komter, 2002/3).

Furthermore, the police officer anticipates the future use of the police record by professionals in the criminal law process, to serve as a piece of evidence in a criminal case (Jönsson & Linell, 1991; Komter, 2001). Therefore the police officer’s task consists of multiple commitments. Not only does the police record look backward, reconstructing the story according to the suspect’s perspective, but it also looks forward, anticipating the future use of the record by legal professionals (Komter, 2002/3).

Data from 20 police interrogations and their police records demonstrate that differences between the verbal interrogation and the written record occur. This poster presentation will show some typical examples of differences by using one specific interrogation and its police record. Examples of changes include the following: dialogue to monologue, word choice, additions to information and summaries of information.

This research is part of the research program ‘intertextuality in judicial settings: the interrelations between talk and written documents in police interrogations and criminal trials.’


Jönsson, L. & Linell, P. (1991). Story generations: From dialogical interviews to written reports in police interrogations. Text 11 (3), p. 419-440.

Komter, M.L. (2001). La construction de la preuve dans un interrogatoire de police [The construction of proof in a police interrogation]. Droit et Société 48, p. 367-393.

Komter, M.L. (2002/3). The construction of records in Dutch police interrogations. Document Design Journal and Document Design 11, 2/3, p. 201-213.

Session: POSTERS: Focus on interaction, discourse, media, professional settings
Friday, April 4, 2008, 12:45-15:45
room: foyer