Don’t Check your Common Sense at the Door

Part Nine in our Ten-Part Series on Investigation Blunders to Avoid

With all of the specific suggestions we’ve made to you in this series, it’s important not to lose the forest for the trees.  It’s too easy to focus like a laser on the specific information and details emphasized by witnesses.  Weighing that evidence, however, is more complicated than simply compiling the information and lining it up against each other.

In order to appropriately analyze the evidence, you must strike a balance, being open and balanced in your assessment of the data received while also “testing” or “challenging” what you are hearing.  Such “testing” not only against other evidence supplied by witnesses, but also against other sources of data or points of reference.  For example, if there’s a conflict regarding whether a certain statement was made (with a witness stating they heard it through a closed door).  You may need to check for yourself.  How far away were they sitting?  How loud was it at that time of day?  What if anything can you hear through the door?

Depending on what witnesses say or the relevance of the data, you often need not go to such lengths.  But, you cannot always adequately investigate events based on what you are told and what has been written in emails.  Use your common sense regarding what data can (and should) be tested and how to go about doing so.  With that said, exercise this judgment to identify sources of additional data and evidence.  Beware the trap of replacing such evidence of what is possible or likely with your “common sense” regarding how somebody traditionally acts under certain circumstances.

Avoid the Following Investigation Blunders
In February we provided you with an overview of “Investigation Blunders” to avoid in 2020 (click here).  Over the rest of the year, we will be highlighting each in turn.

1.Not investigating “hearsay” or “rumor” or not investigating because the complainant asked you not to
2.Sitting on your hands
3.Prioritizing being done over being thorough
4.Failing to talk to comparators or former employees
5.Building a case instead of investigating a complaint with an open mind
6.Talking too much and/or closing off possible responses by using leading or accusatory questions
7.Not getting facts – letting the witness characterize events
8.Promising confidentiality
9.Checking your other senses – including common sense – at the door
10.Relying too much (or at all!) on “demeanor” evidence