Social media’s constant presence has blurred the line and generated influential and critical judgment of how law enforcement officers handle extreme situations as part of their daily work. Consequently, mounting pressure on these agencies to deal with increasingly complex criminal investigations has prompted Joseph Eastwood, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities to establish more scientific and evidence-based law enforcement practices. In collaboration with Durham Regional Police Service and law enforcement officers across several provinces, Dr. Eastwood’s research aims to identify issues and develop guidelines to significantly improve the tools and training available to frontline police officers. His goal is to establish a law enforcement research centre at UOIT, and create an online interview-based program for frontline law enforcement officers.
A large part of his research focuses on the plausibility of alibis within criminal investigations including what investigators are looking for when assessing whether it’s true, and the credibility of multiple strangers backing it up. His research will further investigate the content and circumstances of the event leading to an alibi, whether it was salacious, and whether those in question changed their minds midway through their testimony.
Since his appointment to UOIT in 2013, Dr. Eastwood has worked tirelessly to establish partnerships among his faculty with local and provincial law enforcement agencies. His research to enhance the comprehension of legal rights including improving their delivery by frontline officers and the protection of interviewees has been incorporated into law enforcement agencies' training programs in several provinces in Canada. Dr. Eastwood brings unique interviewing techniques and perspective to teaching and learning. Previously, he spent two years as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Working alongside a research supervisor and mentor for six years who inspired his interest in perceptions of wrongful conviction, Dr. Eastwood received both his Doctorate and Master of Science in Experimental Social Psychology from Memorial University of Newfoundland. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in Honours Psychology from the University of New Brunswick Saint John, following two years of study in Mount Allison University's Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.
Industry Expertise (8)
Training and Development
Areas of Expertise (5)
Confessions and Interrogrations
Memorial University of Newfoundland: PhD, Experimental Social Psychology 2011
Memorial University of Newfoundland: MSc, Experimental Social Psychology 2007
University of New Brunswick Saint John: BA, Psychology 2005
- American Psychology-Law Society
- International Investigative Interviewing Research Group
Media Appearances (1)
A more mellow police interview: Durham cops team up with UOIT to modernize techniques
Durham Region online
“It’s not seen as a sexy part of policing, but doing a good solid interview is usually what moves the case along, or solves it,” says Dr. Joseph Eastwood, a forensic psychology researcher at UOIT. He recently teamed up with Durham Regional Police Service on a pilot project to help local cops modernize their interview techniques, using the “PEACE” model, which focuses on preparing well for interviews, making the subject comfortable and asking open-ended questions.
Event Appearances (4)
What Are My Rights Again?": Comprehension of Canadian Youth Waiver Forms
American Psychology Law Society Conference New Orleans, Louisiana
You Have the Right to Remain Confused: Comprehension of Legal Rights in Police Interrogations
Society for Police and Criminal Psychology Conference Ottawa, Ontario
“That’s the Way My Wednesdays Always Go”: The Role of Schemas in Innocent Suspects’ Alibi Creation
Society for Police and Criminal Psychology Conference Ottawa, Ontario
Predicting Police Caution Comprehension in Adult Offenders: What Do They Already Know?
Canadian Psychology Association Conference Halifax, Nova Scotia
Research Grants (2)
Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) Online Course Development Grant $75000
Dr. Eastwood worked collaboratively with faculty to develop the new online course as part of the Ontario Online initiative of the MTCU.
Improving the Alibi Assessment Process within Police Investigations
SSHRC Insight Development Grant $64803
This research aims to determine the factors that police officers and laypeople consider when deciding whether or not a provided alibi statement was true or false. This includes both factors within the alibi (e.g., wording of the alibi, type of alibi event engaged in) and external factors (e.g., type of corroborating evidence that supported the alibi).
PSYC 3210U, 2nd Year Undergraduate Course
PSYC 2020U, 2nd Year Undergraduate Course
Confessions and Interrogations
3310 PSYCU, 3rd Year Undergraduate Course
Special Topics in Investigative Interviewing
4999 PSYCU, 4th Year Undergraduate Course
Although youth in many Western countries have been afforded enhanced legal protections when facing police interrogations, the effectiveness of these protections may be limited by youth's inability to comprehend them. The ability to increase the comprehension of Canadian interrogation rights among youth through the simplification of waiver forms was assessed.
A policy-capturing analysis of alibi assessments was conducted. University students (N= 65), law enforcement students (N= 21), and police officers (N= 11) were provided with 32 statements from individuals supporting a suspect's alibi (ie, alibi corroborators) and asked to assess the believability of the alibi, the suspect's guilt, and whether they would arrest the suspect.
Invalid expert witness testimony that overstated the precision and accuracy of forensic science procedures has been highlighted as a common factor in many wrongful conviction cases. This study assessed the ability of an opposing expert witness and judicial instructions to mitigate the impact of invalid forensic science testimony.
The reading complexity of a sample of Canadian police youth waiver forms was assessed, and the oral comprehension of a waiver form was examined. Results showed that participants understood approximately 40 per cent of the information contained in the waiver form. The likelihood of the rights of Canadian youths being protected and the need to create a standardized and comprehensible waiver form are discussed.
In this article, we review the evolution of police interrogation practices. In particular, we echo others that interrogations have historically been guided by a “get tough” philosophy, where abusive and manipulative practices have been viewed as a necessity to seek the truth. We illustrate how such a philosophy runs counter to the presumption of innocence, and review the scientific research that has demonstrated that accusatorial practices puts innocence at risk.
This article examines the effect of listenability features on the comprehension of interrogation rights. In Experiment 1, students (N = 76) underwent a mock interrogation where one of two police cautions (listenable caution vs. standard caution) was administered and students were asked to explain the caution in their own words. Experiment 2 (N = 80) extended Experiment 1 by identifying the individual and additive effects of the listenability features on recall of their interrogation rights.
The extent to which youths understand their interrogation rights was examined. High school students (N = 160) from five different grades were presented with one of two Canadian youth waiver forms—varying widely in reading complexity—and tested on their knowledge of their legal rights. Results showed that comprehension of both waiver forms was equally deficient, and systematic misunderstandings of vital legal rights were discovered (e.g., the right to remain silent). There was also a positive linear relationship between high school grade level and amount of comprehension. Potential ways to enhance youths' understanding of their rights and provide them protection during interrogations are discussed.
We measured the level of comprehension of two police cautions in a sample of adult Canadian offenders and predicted comprehension with three measures of cognitive ability (i.e., working memory, vocabulary knowledge, and listening comprehension). Participants (N = 60) were asked to listen to both a right to silence and right to legal counsel caution and then interpret them.
Despite the recognized importance of intensive training for producing effective police interviewers and the importance of sustained supervision and feedback in maintaining learned interviewing skills, there is no empirical data on the current state of such practices in Canadian police organizations. Canadian police officers (N = 171) from two organizations completed an online survey about the training, supervision, and feedback received for interviewing adult witnesses.
We examined the extent to which modifying a police caution using three listenability factors (Instructions, Listing, and Explanations) improved comprehension. A 2 (Instructions vs. No Instructions) X 2 (Listing vs. No Listing) X 2 (Explanations vs. No Explanations) between-participants design was used. Participants (N = 160) were presented verbally with one of eight cautions and asked to record their understanding of the legal rights contained in the caution.