A police station can be an uncomfortable place for victims of violent crimes to be questioned after a traumatic incident. But a newly-furnished room at the Little Rock Police Department’s 12th Street Substation is designed to make people feel as relaxed as possible given the circumstances.
The "soft interview room" has features that are more like what would be found in a living room. It includes a large leather couch, soft arm chairs, sound proof curtains and paintings on the wall. Police Chief Keith Humphrey says the comfortable setting can aid investigations.
"You will find that the décor is very relaxing, very soothing. That has a big impact on the investigation and a main impact on whether a person feels comfortable in telling their story again," Humphrey said.
He and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. unveiled the room to reporters Thursday. The furnishings were paid for through a $3,000 grant the LRPD received from the U.S. Department of Justice and Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. Humphrey said the room is intended to help the department not "retraumatize" victims.
"The soft interview room is important because we want to help victims feel more at ease. We want to help victims realize that we are here for them, that we take their concerns seriously. Our main focus is to make them even stronger after these traumatic incidents," Humphrey said.
Scott, who took office in January, said he is beginning to understand the impact of domestic violence on crime statistics in Little Rock. He said January saw nine or 10 homicides that were directly related to domestic violence.
"We are delighted that we have this new opportunity to deepen our relationship within the community to focus on domestic violence prevention," Scott said.
Victim’s Services Program Supervisor Kandi Hause said the soft interview room has already made a big difference. She said victims have been able to relax and feel at home in the room.
"If they are in a more comfortable space and they are able to feel a little more relaxed as they are having to relive a trauma that they just experienced, they are more likely to not only give a better interview, but to follow through with prosecution," Hause said.
The stark rooms victims have previously been interviewed in contain standard metal and plastic chairs and lack the warm atmosphere of the new soft interview room. Hause said that even though the newer space is small, it still accommodates homey qualities.
"We have two chairs that both rock and spin so someone can sit in them and be comfortable. We have a large leather couch with pillows and blankets on it just to make it comfortable. It really looks more like somebody’s living room. It has curtains on the wall. We have some abstract art, tables that hold windows, the noise reducing curtains, as well as light filtering," Hause said.
Humphrey said the department takes its fight against domestic violence as a top priority. He said the employees of its victim’s assistance programs show passion and empathy toward victims of domestic violence. The grant used for the soft interview room also allowed the department to hire victim’s assistance specialists. Virginia Lee is one of the advocates who can help victims find shelter, complete safety planning and crises intervention. She believes the grant and its repercussions will spread awareness about domestic violence.
"A lot of people don’t realize they are in a domestic violence situation. As advocates, we always want to spread awareness and education. We also want to provide services to them," Lee said.
She said the soft interview room is a good environment for domestic violence survivors.
"It is also a place where they can feel welcome. They don’t have to feel intimidated. They don’t have to feel like they are the suspect or the inmate, and also we want to let them know that they did not do anything wrong," Lee said.