Credibility Assessments

By:  Katrina Jones

Investigators are tasked with making a finding about a certain set of facts but that’s not always easy to do. For instance, what do you do when it comes down to, he said / she said. The answer is: a credibility assessment.  Credibility is defined as “the quality or power of inspiring belief.”[1] Credibility can be assessed using various factors:

  • Corroboration and/or lack of corroboration data
  • Whether the witness is forthcoming and straightforward versus evasiveness
  • Motive (to be honest or dishonest)
  • Consistency of responses / information
  • Material Omissions of facts, witnesses and other relevant information
  • Past record of similar behavior / allegations (if investigated, the findings)
  • Failure to answer questions and/or directly answer questions
  • Qualified responses
  • Responding with a question
  • Selective Memory

This is not an exhaustive list of factors to consider. There are a several sources that investigators can use that offer factors for assessing witness credibility. Two particularly good sources are:

You will find that different factors are relevant and useful depending on the data of a particular investigation. I recommend creating and using a credibility assessment spreadsheet for the Complainant and Respondent (and in some cases for key witnesses) in order to compare and contrast the relevant factors and make an overall determination. When there are conflicting accounts of events, use the credibility factors to explain how and why you reached your findings. It also helps to eliminate emotion and personal bias from investigation findings. A credibility assessment can be the key to making a well-reasoned finding especially in a situation where the investigator is ‘on the fence.’

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/credibility (2023)