The Strength of Softness

by Balfour Beatty

September 23, 2022

When picturing police station interview rooms, you may identify scenes from a favorite detective movie or crime drama television show. You might imagine sterile rooms with cinderblock walls and bars on the windows. Real-life police interview rooms may be a little different than what we typically see on screen, but the sentiment is correct: these environments can often be\ uncomfortable, impersonal, and stark. 

During the design phase of this project, both the Mooresville Police Department and the Town of Mooresville, North Carolina, determined that they needed a different kind of interview space. When our team began this design-build project in partnership with Little, they planned to include a more comfortable interview space. 

As construction progressed, however, our team realized that much more was involved in creating a warm and inviting environment than simply incorporating comfortable furniture. Special Victims Detective Elizabeth Watts recalled learning about the concept of soft interview rooms, used in trauma-informed care (TIC), which considers and understands the body's biological and neurological response to trauma. 

Police departments utilize soft interview rooms as ways for individuals being interviewed following traumatic events to feel more physically and emotionally safe, which helps to facilitate more open and detailed responses. The TIC approach recognizes that victims can sometimes experience re-traumatization during the process and aims to protect victims’ mental health whenever possible. 

“These victims are coming in to tell a stranger about, quite possibly, the worst day of their lives,” says Detective Watts. “It’s very important to us to make sure we have a space that is TIC-friendly.”

Together with Detective Watts, Senior Project Manager Aislinn Nagy and Balfour Beatty’s local Connecting Women employee affinity group raised funds to purchase furniture and décor beyond what the team had initially envisioned for the project. With these donations, the project team successfully decorated the soft interview room with furniture, art, blankets, and additional amenities that bring added comfort and sensitivity to interviewees. 

“We’ve learned a lot through the process of furnishing this soft interview room,” says Aislinn. “One important discovery has been that victims are more likely to share specifics of their case when they are in a comfortable environment. It’s been a pleasure helping provide that.”

A ribbon cutting for the new, 50,000-square-foot building is slated for late September, and the entire design-build team is excited to deliver this dynamic and functional space that has the potential to positively impact the way members of the community interact with law enforcement in the joint pursuit of justice.