Criminal Investigations

In order to conduct an investigation of a crime, the investigator or detective relies on intelligence. In assisting the investigator, the intelligence analyst concentrates on the collection and dissemination of information about criminals (Bruce, 2008). That is, the analyst may create physical, behavioral, or psychological profiles of offenders based on the crimes they have committed. Or the analyst might use investigative skills to compare possible suspects, research the modus operand! of a number of suspects, or create a profile of a serial offender.

It is important for intelligence analysts and tactical crime analysts to have a mastery of how a criminal investigation proceeds in order to be in the best position to provide the kind of intelligence investigators need to close cases.

To better appreciate the investigative process, it is useful to consider the essential qualities of a criminal investigator. According to Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, and Taylor (2012), successful investigators have the following qualities:

  • 1 Strong degree of self-discipline
  • 2 Ethical and moral standards leading to using legally approved methods
  • 3 Capable of winning the confidence of others
  • 4 Not acting out of malice or bias
  • 5 Always willing to include in their case documentation all evidence that may point to the innocence of a suspect—no matter how unsavory the character of that suspect
  • 6 Knowledge that investigation is a systematic method of inquiry that is more science than art
  • 7 Realization that investigations often require initiative and personal resourcefulness
  • 8 Wide range of contacts across many occupations
  • 9 Openness to consulting with experts from various fields to help move the investigation forward
  • 10 Ability to use both inductive and deductive reasoning
  • 11 Willingness to monitor their own use of inductive and deductive reasoning to try to avoid distortions and fallacies
  • 12 Ability to learn something from every' person they meet
  • 13 Empathy, sensitivity, and compassion to do their job without causing undue anguish to others
  • 14 Positive outlook that guards them against becoming callous and cynical

Knowing that these essential qualities possessed by good investigators allows you to strive to have them.

Now, we can go on to talk about how criminal investigations are carried out.

How Investigations Are Carried Out

Of course, an investigation starts with a crime—and the report of a crime. Often, this means that a call has been placed to 911 or the police reporting an incident. For instance, lets use the example of a robber}' that occurs just off a college campus. A student walking home from the university library at 10:00 p.m. is robbed of her backpack, which includes her purse and her laptop computer, and when she resists, she is pushed and falls to the sidewalk.

The student still has her cell phone and calls 911 and reports the incident. A police patrol officer in the vicinity arrives within 10 minutes to do a preliminary investigation. The actions taken by the first officer on the scene, usually a uniformed patrol officer, can be viewed as a preliminary investigation.

Typically, the preliminary investigation will include the following steps:

  • 1 Interview victim as initial response
  • 2 Assess need for emergency care
  • 3 Secure the scene and control persons and evidence
  • 4 Issue a “Be on the lookout” (BOLO)
  • 5 Conduct neighborhood or vehicle canvass
  • 6 Process evidence and maintain the chain of custody of evidence
  • 7 Write an incident report

During the preliminary investigation, the officer will be alert for people and cars leaving the crime scene or the immediate vicinity and note numbers and descriptions. In addition, the officer must determine whether a tactical situation exists. A tactical situation would exist if the person taking the student’s backpack also abducted a friend of the victim or if the suspect broke into a nearby home and is armed with a weapon. That would necessitate that the responding officer call for backup or for the assistance of specialized units.

Furthermore, the initial officer must treat the location as a crime scene unless he or she determines otherwise. Also, if the suspect is still at the scene, he or she should be arrested and a search of his or her person should be conducted for weapons or other evidence. It is very important that the initial officer maintain control of the crime scene (Swanson et al., 2012). Not only does this mean making sure that the victim is safe and cared for and that evidence is secured, but it also means that all individuals at the scene are identified. Interviews should also be conducted with the victim and witnesses, but if the suspect has fled the scene, the officer should issue an all-points bulletin or a BOLO based on the description of the perpetrator provided by the victim or witnesses.

Finally, the responding officer must complete an incident report or an offense report. This report will include his or her notes, observations, and other information about the crime scene or incident.This report will be filed in the patrol division or referred to the investigative division for follow-up.

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