Identifying psychological vulnerabilities: Studies on police suspects' mental health issues and police officers' views

Koen Geijsen*, Corine de Ruiter, Nicolien Kop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Psychological vulnerabilities in police suspects may interfere with the demands of police interrogations, and thereby increase the risk of an unreliable statement, or even a false confession. This study examined: (1) the prevalence of a number of psychological vulnerabilities in police arrestees, and (2) the views of police officers on identifying vulnerable suspects. Both have not been studied previously in the Dutch context. Psychological assessments of a sample of police suspects (N = 149) showed that about 60% rated positive on a mental health screen, and, compared to the general Dutch population, levels of psychopathology, depression, anxiety, stress and interrogative suggestibility were significantly higher. In a second study in police detectives (N = 103), 55% stated that they had not interrogated a vulnerable suspect within the previous 12-month period, and again 55% mentioned that they did not take any special precautions when interrogating vulnerable suspects. Forty-two per cent of police detectives took precautions when interrogating vulnerable suspects, such as consulting their supervisor, a police psychologist, the public prosecutor or a specialised police interrogator. The two studies together indicate that police officers seriously underestimate the base rate of psychological vulnerabilities among suspects. Implications for police interrogation training and supervision are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1462133
Number of pages14
JournalCogent Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • police suspects
  • police custody
  • psychological vulnerabilities
  • vulnerable suspects
  • police


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