Investigating Harassment Complaints —Fiorenza
When did it take place?
Where did it take place?
Who was there?
Who saw it or heard it?
How was the complaining witness affected?
Was this an isolated incident?
Detailed notes of all questions asked and all answers should be kept. The investigator should never rely on his/her memory. The notes should be dated to demonstrate that the investigation was performed promptly. At the conclusion of the interview, the investigator should prepare an initial report of the complaint, based on the interview of the complainant.
Assembling the facts. Keep a time line of the events that took place during the incident. This will help the investigator better analyze the testimony of the complaining witness, as well as the other witnesses, and help further refine his/her questions. If the timing of events varies among the witnesses, the witnesses are either mistaken or lying. The time line also helps the investigator to reconstruct what happened in greater detail.
Identify and gather any documents or other physical evidence promptly before either can be destroyed. Visit the site where the incident took place. This also helps refine questioning and helps the investigator determine which witnesses are reliable. For example, if a witness says she was leaning against a file cabinet when she observed the incident, by visiting the site the investigator can determine whether the witness had an unobstructed view of the incident. Like the time line, it also helps to reconstruct the incident with a greater level of detail.
Interviewing eyewitnesses. Once all the facts are assembled, the investigator should separately interview eyewitnesses and corroborating witnesses, if any. Also investigate any corroborating details specified by the complainant and obtain any additional, available documentary and other evidence relevant to the complaint.
What did you see or hear?