investigation of cases. When attempting to solve a crime, detectives conduct a criminal investigation that seeks all the facts about a crime to help determine the truth: what happened and who is responsible. This involves making a preliminary and final investigation. A detective s task is to gather, organize, and use information about social behavior. To effectively complete that task a detective should possess certain characteristics: intellectual, psychological, and physical. Studies were conducted on the importance and efficiency of the
criminal investigation system, and on the need to integrate written policies, and rules.
Detectives have many different functions. All help them attain the ultimate purpose of detective work, which is to recognize, gather, and organize information for case disposition. Detectives provide emergency assistance, conduct raids, surveillance works, stakeouts, conduct undercover assignments, as well as testify in court.
In order to more effectively investigate a case, a detective must possess certain personal characteristics. Detectives should have intellectual qualities, but great intelligence is not needed. Effective investigators obtain and retain information, apply technical knowledge, remain open-minded and objective, and use logic when attempting to solve a case. All decisions pertaining to a case should be based on facts and not be opinion based, but the results of an investigation should not be based on only one fact. Detectives rely on skills acquired by experience, study, and observation. The job requires highly-developed skills, perhaps innate abilities to collect and evaluate case facts.
The decision making required by investigations can be very stressful. Thus, it is important to also possess certain psychological characteristics. It is important that detectives not become personally involved in the cases they investigate. Personal involvement hinders an investigation, and poses a threat to the emotional well-being of the investigator, causing him or her undue stress. A detective must therefore be emotionally well balanced, and have the ability to remain detached, and discerning. In addition, a detective must possess other psychological characteristics such as inquisitiveness, suspicion, humbleness, self discipline, and perseverance. Detectives must not accept anything at face value, but question everything they hear and see. People may lie or tell half-truths, but this does not mean that they are necessarily criminals. Detectives must stick with a case for as long as they think reasonable, so self discipline is linked with the willingness to persevere.
Detectives must also have strong physical characteristics. They do not have to be a certain height, or weight, or age, but it is important to be a healthy, physically fit individual with adequate vision, and hearing abilities. Good health, and a high energy level are important and beneficial because detective work involves long and demanding hours.
The responsibility to solve crimes belongs to the entire police force. An investigation is a coordinated departmental effort. An investigation relies on the assistance of other individuals and agencies, as well as major assistance coming from the public in obtaining information. A patrol officer is first on the scene of a crime, so detectives become dependent on the prior work of the patrol officer in their preliminary investigation. Patrol officers make an initial decision concerning whether an incident has sufficient grounds to report it.
An investigation of a case can be divided into five parts or steps, and has certain goals to be accomplished. A detective must first establish a case. This entails determining whether a crime has been committed. The detective then has to identify a suspect or suspects. The investigator must legally obtain information and evidence that would help identify the person or persons responsible. After determining a suspect, a detective then must physically locate the suspect, and then attempt to obtain a confession. A confession is not always necessary, because sometimes enough incriminating evidence has already been obtained. If there is sufficient evidence or a confession is obtained, then detectives can arrest the suspect. It is the detective s job to present the best possible case to the prosecution. After all this occurs the case is disposed of. These steps are not always followed in this exact order, and sometimes steps are eliminated. In conclusion, a detective s job is basically to clear or dispose of a case (Bennett, 1981). Detectives, when conducting an investigation, should first determine whether a crime has been committed. Thus, a detective who is familiar with the different crimes and their elements (what must occur for an act to be called a specific type of crime), knows immediately if a crime has actually been committed.
When a detective receives a case, he or she conducts a preliminary investigation. When establishing a case, a preliminary investigation consists of different aspects. A detective s job includes such things as measuring, photographing, sketching, and searching the crime scene, as well as identifying, collecting, examining, and processing physical evidence. In addition, a detective questions victims, witnesses, and suspects. They record
all statements and observations in their notes. All aspects of the preliminary investigation are done to preserve the crime scene, and there is an attempt to determine the time that the crime was committed and the modus operandi. Detectives realize that a criminal always makes mistakes, and leaves some type of evidence behind. Most times the evidence left behind is less visible, such as fingerprints, blood stains, small particles, footprints, body hairs, or clothing fibers (Donahue, 1993).
Modus operandi or M.O. is the characteristic way a criminal commits a specific type of crime. The modus operandi aids detectives in determining who committed the crime by providing clues. It is stated that most criminals rarely change from one type of crime to another, or change the way that they commit a crime Modus operandi is a valuable investigative tool. A detective must also keep in mind that modus operandi is only an assumption and not a certainty, as some criminals operate outside of their normal modus operandi.
In addition to a preliminary investigation, a final investigation will be conducted. In the final investigation, a detective reviews the case and looks again at different aspects. However, the initial observations are often the most important ones so the work done by the detectives in the preliminary investigation is crucial. For example, Wayne W. Bennett mentions Res gestae statements in Criminal Investigation. Res gestae statements, spontaneous statements made at the time of a crime, concerning and closely related to the
actions taken at the crime, are often considered more truthful than later, planned responses (Bennett, 1981:26).
A successful investigation is the responsibility of the detective. To fulfill the definition of a successful investigation a detective should follow a logical sequence, and guarantee that any evidence obtained is obtained legally. A detective, as well, should effectively and legally interview all possible witnesses, and ensure that all leads are developed. A detective should ensure that all details of the case are recorded and reported accurately and completely. This is important because a case could be ongoing for a very long time and facts can be forgotten, unless written down.
Studies on the work of detectives must be done regularly in order to maintain a non-corrupt and efficient crime force. The Rand Detective Study (Sanders, 1977:139) was a two-year study which evaluated the criminal investigation process, looking at four different aspects of the process. The study described current investigative practices, and looked at the contribution an investigation makes to a case, as well as the effectiveness of the techniques used for gathering physical evidence, and the impact of organizational styles on investigations. The Rand Detective Study found that investigators did not give their full attention to half of the serious crimes committed. Findings showed that more of the investigator s attention was spent on those cases that had little or no chance of being solved. In addition, the Rand Detective study also found that documentation of cases was inadequate to meet the standards.
Another study conducted, looked at the need for some written directives, prepared by the administration of the [police] department, which have been labeled policies, rules, procedures (Schubert, 1981:261). This study found that there had been little advancement in regulating police discretion by police departments. Three reasons were behind this lack of
progress: uncertainty as to who was actually in charge, by-laws of the city contradicting with solutions that administration attempted to integrate, and lack of financial support and cooperation amongst staff. One part of the study mentioned how officers have many avenues of criminal investigation which enable investigators to invade peoples privacy. The study suggested that if an investigator was not careful he or she could infringe upon the basic rights of individuals (Schubert, 1981:266). The study stated that officers need direction from police administrations as to what investigative methods are appropriate, and what is prohibited.
The Criminal Investigation Department of police forces play a vital role in society and in the justice system. Criminal investigation enables police to properly enforce laws in society. If a crime is committed and was not witnessed by police, or some citizen does not come forward to bear witness against the criminal, no one could identify the criminal and society would, without criminal investigation, have no way of punishing the criminal for his
crimes. Members of society would soon feel free to do whatever they wished, provided no one was looking. People s freedom is protected by laws preventing others from doing something to impair that freedom. Without the criminal investigation department many of society s laws would soon become largely unenforceable, leading to a breakdown in society s freedoms.
Another way criminal investigation departments affect society is by definitely proving someone guilty of a crime. Investigation shows that many others associated with the victim, or in another way associated to the crime, are by default found innocent. Often the public or media make up their own mind about whom they think is guilty, but can be found wrong. Solace is found by a victim, victim s family and friends when someone is held accountable.
Criminal investigators show society that someone is trying to help them, and that someone is on their side when they have been victimized by a criminal. Victims also find closure when the perpetrator is identified and found guilty. If the case is not solved, ongoing suspicion, and lack of closure can ruin the lives of many people of many people.
Thus, investigators must be familiar with crimes and their elements, modus operandi information, the major goals of investigation, and the basic functions of investigating officers. All of these factors help a detective solve cases efficiently and successfully. Studies show that criminal investigations are needed but can always use improvement.