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What are the current and future challenges in criminal investigation carried out by the police in the UK? How has the role of the detective changed over time and is there a real journey towards professionalism?

Written by an author with extensive practical and training experience, this book provides a comprehensive overview and critical analysis of the development and practice of criminal investigation. It examines decision-making within criminal investigations, from volume crime through to major and serious crime investigations and links investigative influences on policing with the evidence-based agenda. The book:

• discusses the move from the art and craft of detective work to a new science-based professionalism;

• contextualises the current position of investigation within the context of government austerity measures and the College of Policing and Government agendas;

• critically examines models of investigation such as the Core Investigative Doctrine and the Murder Investigation Manual;

• explores the legal framework for modern critical investigations and the role of the IPCC.

Part of Key themes in policing, a textbook series of evidence-based policing books for use within Higher Education curriculums and in practice, this book is suitable for policing and criminal justice programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

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You only have to look at the daily press to read real-life stories involving criminal investigations. The cases reported do not necessarily indicate a rise or fall in crime or in particular crimes, because often the cases reported are noteworthy ones, judged to be of particular public interest by journalists, editors and publishers (Brodeur, 2010). Murders and other violent crimes continue to receive publicity irrespective of whether their rates are rising or falling. It is sometimes difficult to discern what the underlying motives are on the part of the media for publishing particular stories (Reiner, 2008). What publicity does though, is bring criminal investigation to the attention of the public. Add to that the wealth of literature dedicated to crime fiction, and the public’s fascination with it, and it is easy to see why criminal investigation is often at the forefront of public consciousness. People appear to love the whodunits, the cases of note, and the way the police sleuth tracks down their prey with skill, intelligence and tenacity. Maybe that idealised picture of an investigation has happened in real, modern-day cases, but much of what is depicted has been shown to be far removed from reality by academic research. Successive studies in the USA in the late 1960s and early 1970s (see, for instance: Isaacs, 1967; Greenwood, 1970; Greenberg et al, 1972) culminated in the much debated RAND study (Greenwood et al, 1977). Combined, these studies challenged myths by concluding that crimes were mostly solved by patrol officers and members of the public, not by detectives.

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No discussion of the development of criminal investigation can be divorced from its early roots. We have already seen that historically, criminal investigation was viewed as the sole province of detectives, although rising crime soon led to greater uniformed involvement. Today, the majority of volume crimes are dealt with by uniformed officers, with detectives dealing with serious, complex, and major crimes. This chapter discusses a move away from perceptions of the detective as artist or craftsman towards a more modern professional scientific paradigm. What is known as the ‘art, craft, science’ debate around detective work receives attention, particularly as the direction of change seems to point to a new era of professionalism unencumbered by the myths and stereotypes that dogged detective work until academic research paved the way for its reassessment. Any perceived march towards professionalisation, however, needs to be considered in light of ongoing government austerity measures since 2011. In 2012, CoP became the professional body for policing, designed to marshal in a new era of professionalisation. Together with a code of ethics, a new accent on approved professional practice, and a paradigm shift to evidence-based policing practice, the developments appear to herald real change. Recent research provides a snapshot of the effects of austerity on police investigations. This chapter traces the development of investigative work and asks whether the rhetoric of professionalisation can survive in austerity.

There has been some debate in the past about whether criminal investigation can be characterised as an art, a craft, or a science (Repetto, 1978; Tong and Bowling, 2006).

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The previous chapter discussed the development of detective practice towards professionalisation. Aligned to the PIP process, modern investigators must qualify through a process of knowledge acquisition, training and workplace competence, in order to be able to investigate crimes of any seriousness or complexity. Today, investigators have a wealth of information at their fingertips in the form of Authorised Professional Practice (APP), National Centre for Applied Learning Technologies (NCALT) and the Police National Legal database (PNLD). There are movements to ensure best practice within an evidence-based policing (EBP) paradigm. CoP was created in 2012 as a central feature of professionalisation, aiming to develop the knowledge base of policing, develop staff through training and education, and to ensure standards in policing (including investigations). Already, a new code of ethics has been produced (CoP, 2014a), together with a National Decision Making model (NDM) designed to ensure ethical decision-making by practitioners exercising professional discretion. The previous chapter briefly considered how such developments have been affected by government austerity measures, but in what ways does this rhetoric of professionalisation survive reality in the training and development of investigators? This chapter will trace the development of investigator training to the modern day. How has it taken heed of public inquiries, Royal Commissions, high-profile MOJs and failed cases? What research underpins investigative training, the PIP process and the qualification and competencies required of a detective? In 1829, when the Metropolitan Police was created, the idea of using plain-clothed detectives to investigate crimes was not supported (Beattie, 2012). Public disquiet about plain-clothed spies meant that the old system of Bow Street runners (detectives in all but name) still existed alongside new police for a period of time.

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Poor decision-making is often said to be linked to wrongful convictions and other MOJs. In research for the RCCJ, Maguire and Norris (1992) identified decision-making as one of the most common reasons for MOJs. They suggested that detective training should include this issue in a more fundamental way. Decision-making skills have been highlighted as crucial to detective practice (Smith and Flanagan, 2000; O’Neill, 2011; Westera et al, 2014). Some attempts have been made to address decision making in the form of guidance in homicide investigations (ACPO, 2006) and general investigations (ACPO, Centrex, 2005). CD posits an open-minded, methodical approach, calling on investigators to use a sceptical and inquiring mindset, accepting nothing at face value. Investigative interview practice was significantly altered to ensure information seeking rather than confessions (Bull, 2014). Since 2012, officers have utilised a decision-making model to assist them. Yet cases continue to fail due to poor decision-making (see Chapter 7). Why do failures recur? Is it a cultural issue? Is it systemic? Or, is it due to human fallibility? This chapter begins with discussion of relevant research that considers attempts to explain errors in decision-making. The chapter then critically analyses modern investigative practice and models of investigation. Has research in this area influenced police practice in the same way as psychological research did in the development of investigative interviewing? Fahsing (2016) argues that much decision-making research is descriptive and fails to identify what works for the benefit of practitioners.

Decision-making, problem-solving, reasoning and critical thinking are all distinct areas in the academic literature, and each has its own set of theoretical perspectives and a large body of supporting literature.

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It is often said that there is a discord between law in action and law in books (Newburn and Reiner, 2004), as well as the rule of law and the reality of policing (Skolnick, 1966). The line of argument is that the police do a very difficult job, but have often resorted to rule-bending or using ‘ways and means’ to ensure that their understanding of the term ‘justice’ is achieved. This may involve a range of activities, from concentrating on one suspect to the exclusion of others, ignoring contradictory evidence, and failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, through to deliberately fabricating evidence to ensure conviction. The behaviour ensures that those considered guilty receive their just deserts. Several high-profile cases and MOJs have confirmed that the police are not always correct when assuming guilt (i.e. Colin Stagg). There is some suggestion of courts for many years providing tacit approval by turning a blind eye to these types of police practices (Bayley, 2002), preferring to allow any misdemeanours to go unpunished for the smooth and effective running of the criminal justice system (Holdaway, 1983; Smith and Gray, 1983; Ericson, 1993; Runciman, 1993). McConville et al (1991) suggest that law-breaking and rule-bending is a systemic set of practices. As an example, they suggest that new laws enacted to curtail police misuse of power (such as PACE) were easily subsumed into existing practices.

The modern era has seen a plethora of legislation enacted that directly impacts on the work of detectives (Ashworth, 2000). In some cases, the law was changed to regulate the work of detectives because high-profile cases demonstrated abuses of power and poor decision-making that led directly or indirectly to MOJs (Snook and Cullen, 2008).

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Shadows of scandal, injustice and failed investigations have fallen on police investigative practice. Attempts to identify root causes have often concluded that it is a complex mixture of individual and organisational failings (see, for instance, IPCC reports and recommendations, Chapter 7). The added difficulty is that failings in one case can be multiple rather than singular. In 1993, the RCCJ stated that the ideal measure of police performance in criminal investigations should be quality rather than quantity. The RAND study found that thoroughness in investigation increased conviction rates (Greenwood et al, 1977). However, since the RCCJ suggestion, there has been considerable debate around the notion of success. (Reiner, 1998; Neyroud, 2008; Maguire, 2008; Tong et al, 2009; Stelfox, 2009; Brookman and Innes 2013; Gorby, 2013). The debate is complicated by differing views of what constitutes success. For instance, uniformed officers, detectives and senior officers will have differing perspectives, as might politicians, victims, victims’ families and other agencies within the criminal justice system (Brookman and Innes, 2013). There is also the distinction between organisational success and individual success. All this is against the backdrop of criticism alleging that if measures of success relate to quantitative output only (i.e. detections), then the investigation processes will necessarily focus on easy-to-solve crimes to ensure that police figures are portrayed in a favourable light (Maguire and Norris, 1994; Chatterton, 2008). If an organisation chases detections in this manner, it tends to focus on easy-to-solve and major crime, leaving a large lacuna at the centre of crime and criminality that never receives the attention it deserves (Steer, 1980).

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Effective oversight is essential for police legitimacy and accountability. The IPCC plays an important oversight function. Whether their functions, powers, remit and effectiveness are sufficient is open to debate (Home Affairs Committee, 2013; Smith, 2009). However, theory would suggest that they oversee the disciplinary process across EW and, once cases are referred to them, they can choose to independently investigate, manage or supervise what they deem to be the most serious of cases (National Audit Office, 2008). Investigations conducted by one of several commissioners are considered to be the most independent investigations, overseen by a commissioner who by law cannot have a policing background. The IPCC investigate cases and make recommendations in relation to individual culpability or organisational learning on the part of the police. Waddington (2015) suggests that the idea of the police ‘learning lessons’ is hollow rhetoric because time and again the same themes emerge from cases, with little evidence of real learning (Waddington, 2015). He posits that police responses are specific to the situation rather than to underlying, systemic causes. Support for this contention comes from Dame Anne Owers, who remarked recently that often forces view an officer’s dismissal as the solution to a problem when it may not be (NPCC, 2016). This chapter reports an examination of published IPCC reports from two periods (2004–9 and 2010–15). The research aim was to compare criminal investigation failings within the two periods. IPCC recommendations were considered from individual and organisational perspectives. This chapter attempts to test the accuracy of Waddington’s assertion that lessons are not being learnt, despite contrary assurances from the police.

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This volume has attempted to provide a snapshot of investigative practice in EW in the modern era, how it has evolved historically and how it has attempted to shape itself in austerity and beyond. We have seen how investigation of crime has developed since its early days, from a mythical calling of the few skilled detective artisans, to a new era of investigators at every level of crime seriousness, from uniformed officers dealing with high-volume crime, detectives dealing with serious and complex crime and more specialist officers investigating major criminality. The world has moved on in the 185 years since the official detectives of the New Police were formed.

Research has shed light on investigative practice. The RAND study punctured the myth of effectiveness of detective work and led to a better understanding of what solved crimes and, in some cases, what did not. Screening processes developed over time to ensure that effort was not wasted on volume crime investigations. In EW, over time, uniformed officers became the mainstay of volume crime investigations, while detectives focused on the more serious crimes. PIP was designed to ensure that professional development was in line with case seriousness. The craft mentality, a belief that investigators are somehow born with the skills to be effective, that such skills cannot be taught, and that experience is all, seemingly gave way to a more pragmatic understanding that investigators can be taught the rudiments of the profession, although the dominance of craft still prevails. Moreover, recent pronouncements by CoP relating to PIP development appear to signal a return to craft dominance seemingly for reasons of cost (O’Neill, in press).

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This chapter examines one particular way in which projects sought to engage communities in the action research process and discusses the role and experiences of community-based action researchers (CBARs). The analysis reveals that the Sustainable Health Action Research Programme (SHARP) projects which used the CBAR model found that it worked. The CBARs gave projects an entrée into communities and brought a very different perspective from that which would have been provided by traditional researchers. However, there are social risks and ethical issues in the CBAR model that need to be considered and properly addressed.

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