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Monday, November 18, 2013

Criminal Investigation - Part Three

 The third and last part of this series is based upon what I refer to as the Sherlock Holmes style of investigation.  Holmes looks for clues that others look past and then progressively puts them together in his well trained mind to catch the culprit in dramatic fashion. I believe this is the best way to build a case but Holmes takes it to the extreme in finding obscure clues that in and of themselves hold no apparent relevance to the investigation. The principal however is a good one since he uses each piece of evidence to build towards a solution and coupled with his well trained mind finds the culprit. It also helps his image as he is usually surrounded by buffoons in plain clothes. As I mentioned in part one a well trained mind is essential in my opinion. I learned by putting each item of evidence on an index card and when I had sufficient evidence put the cards out on a table. To rearrange them to where they made sense and see where the evidence took me. Then if there was no obvious solution it would reveal where I needed to focus on additional investigation. Much like the building blocks above and the puzzle parts below. When sufficient parts of the puzzle were assembled you could see the picture more clearly and proceed from there. It was slow tedious work but effective.
The entire process helps train your thinking to achieve logical conclusions based upon facts available and proceed in the most likely direction and have a foundation of evidence to support your conclusion. It also keeps you from having to back track on an investigation as much. It is a slower process but if you assemble the facts and evidence properly when you are done you have a much more solid case than one of circumstantial evidence. I note now days that the investigator interviews the suspect whom is the object of their investigation going over the details numerous times hoping the suspect will trip themselves up. My approach was somewhat different. I would get the initial version from the person and not have them repeat it several times. That is simply fishing for evidence and hoping the person will reveal a contradiction. In short, wear the person down. I will not divulge specific technique that I learned from an FBI seminar but I liked to have hard evidence on hand when I interviewed the actual suspect. Each person develops their own specific technique anyway.  A skilled interrogator can bring the suspect to a confession (desired result) without intimidation or forcing the confession. Face it when dealing with the professional criminal you are not likely to get a confession anyway.  I can only recall one case which I worked on (rape) that I had to interrogate the person more than once. It wasn't the alleged criminal that I had to interrogate but the victim who was lying. It took the second interrogation to disclose the lie much to the relief of the alleged perpetrator.

So in conclusion a good criminal investigator needs to be proficient at collecting and processing evidence, having a logical mind and approach and good interrogation techniques. With all the technology available now days an old investigator like myself probably would not fit into modern criminology very well. I spent considerable time researching evidence, verification of alleged facts and  interviewing people to narrow down who would be suspect and preserving the chain of custody on evidence. There were other factors that helped as well - such as informants and background checks.  I still believe however that having a logical thinking process and building a factual foundation over a circumstantial foundation is the best way to go. As I watch these criminal cases evolve on television and see glib attorneys build a purely circumstantial case it troubles me. Perhaps the culprit is guilty but I believe I would rather see them walk away free than get convicted on speculation and the prosecuting attorney fabricating a case. A proper investigation and building a case on solid facts leaves no doubt in anyone's mind that the person should be punished. I also don't like to see the suspect arrested years after the crime. A thorough investigation at the onset should identify all witnesses or potential witnesses and collect all available evidence.

Possibly it is the shear volume of crime now days that compels the investigator to take short cuts and move on to new cases but I do not see that as a viable excuse. I love watching the CSI shows but 'in the day' we did our own collecting of evidence without relying on others. Then again maybe now days with all the TV shows revealing how cases are solved that criminals are getting more proficient at their illegal activity. I have to admit it seemed to me that criminals were pretty dumb in most cases back in the day..What ever the reason I like to watch the crime shows for entertainment whether flawed or not.

1 comment:

Bruce said...

Comment by Pat: Good articles. I think technology has replaced basic human intelligence and logic. Too bad... At some point humans will probably devolve into beings with long pointy thumbs and hard drives for brains.