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8 ways for officers and witnesses to unlock their memories

By PoliceOne Guest Columnist Paul Mellor
President, Success Links Memory, Inc.

You get the call there's been a robbery near 1st and Elm. The suspect was seen fleeing behind the furniture store.

"Wait a minute," you say to yourself, "didn't I investigate some suspicious activity there three months ago?

Now, you're racking your brain trying to recall what the guy looked like and the names of the people you spoke with. "If I could only remember."

You're a highly trained police officer. You've been schooled in weaponry, self defense, policy and procedure. You have all the tools and equipment at your fingertip, but sometimes that's not enough.

The information you need is found on the tip of your tongue, instead. Too bad they never covered this at the academy.

Yes, if you could only remember.

A police officer with a highly trained memory adds another important weapon to their arsenal. To those who can speak in court without notes; remember license plate numbers and codes; and recall what the suspect looks like, the edge goes to the officer with the best memory.

So, before you start your next shift study these 8 steps in unlocking your memory.

The benefits can save you time. They can also save a life.

1. How can I help witnesses recall details about the man who robbed the store?
Take the person back to the spot they saw him. Ask, how much room was left from the top of his head to the doorway leading out? Ask, what's the first thing you noticed about him? The dirty fingernails may lead to the tattoo on his hand. And, that leads to something else.

2. How can I avoid using notes while testifying in court?
Review your notes the night before your court date. Link the information in a memorable way. For instance, visualizing a huge dial over her eyes, then dialing up the number 4 will remind you that her eyes were DIAL-lated and her BAC was .04.

3. How can I remember a name, especially right after I hear it?
Repeat the name immediately. "Lois, I'm Officer Kelly. Tell me what happened." Make the first word uttered be that person's name. It's only fair. They gave you their name, now give it back.

4. How can I remember the direction the one way streets go?
Create a visual image for the four directions, north, south, east and west. Then, create a visual image for the street name. Associate the two in a unique fashion. For example, to recall that Main Street runs West, visualize a Vest (West) wrapped around the horses' Mane (Main).

5. How can I remember what the suspect first said when I approached the scene?
Repeat the words in a whisper while pinching your finger into your thumb. The action gives you a reference point similar to the string tied to your finger. Bizarre, but it works.

6. How can I remember what to ask in the interrogation process?
While the suspect is talking and you notice he contradicted himself, associate a key word to your question to a body part. For instance, visualizing dipping your elbow in popcorn will remind you to ask how he got to the movies when he said he didn't have a car. By associating new information (popcorn) to what we already know (elbow) triggers our memory.

7. How can I improve my spelling?
Break down the troubled word to find a smaller word that you do know how to spell. See the lion in pavilion, ask yourself if you ache to be a bachelor or if the cesspool is necessary. You can improve your spelling. So, Y be a martyr?

8. How can I remember foreign words and phrases?
Tweak the foreign word to an English word, then associate the meaning in an imaginative way. For instance, the Spanish word for money is dinero. Can you think of a word or better yet, a Hollywood actor that would remind you of that, especially if he's robbed of it? (Robert…)


Paul Mellor, President of Success Links Memory, Inc., conducts highly effective training dedicated to improving the memory skills of law enforcement nationwide. He can be reached at greatmemory@comcast.net.

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