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Policing: An International Journal

ISSN : 1363-951X

Article publication date: 23 June 2021

Issue publication date: 31 August 2021

Detective work is a mainstay of modern law enforcement, but its effectiveness has been much less evaluated than patrol work. To explore what is known about effective investigative practices and to identify evidence gaps, the authors assess the current state of empirical research on investigations.


The authors assess the empirical research about the effectiveness of criminal investigations and detective work in resolving cases and improving clearance rates.

The authors’ analysis of the literature produced 80 studies that focus on seven categories of investigations research, which include the impact that case and situational factors, demographic and neighborhood dynamics, organizational policies and practices, investigative effort, technology, patrol officers and community members have on case resolution. The authors’ assessment shows that evaluation research examining the effectiveness of various investigative activities is rare. However, the broader empirical literature indicates that a combination of organizational policies, investigative effort and certain technologies can be promising in improving investigative outcomes even in cases deemed less solvable.

Research limitations/implications

From an evidence-based perspective, this review emphasizes the need for greater transparency, evaluation and accountability of investigative activities given the resources and importance afforded to criminal investigations.


This review is currently the most up-to-date review of the state of the research on what is known about effective investigative practices.

  • Investigations
  • Evidence-based policing
  • Effectiveness


This evidence-assessment was funded by a grant from Arnold Ventures.

Prince, H. , Lum, C. and Koper, C.S. (2021), "Effective police investigative practices: an evidence-assessment of the research", Policing: An International Journal , Vol. 44 No. 4, pp. 683-707.

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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Library Home

Introduction to Criminal Investigation: Processes, Practices and Thinking

(7 reviews)

research articles on criminal investigation

Rod Gehl, Justice Institute of British Columbia

Darryl Plecas, University of the Fraser Valley

Copyright Year: 2017

Publisher: BCcampus

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.


Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Ann Koshivas, Professor, North Shore Community College on 11/29/22

I am excited that there is a book in the OER library on criminal investigations. The principles of criminal investigation are well described and it is easy to read and understand. It is a comprehensive book for a community college criminal... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

I am excited that there is a book in the OER library on criminal investigations. The principles of criminal investigation are well described and it is easy to read and understand. It is a comprehensive book for a community college criminal investigations course. There are some parts that might be confusing because the text is based on Canadian law but the general principles are explained well and applicable to the US as well.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

As far as I can tell the book is accurate but I am not as familiar with Canadian Law and case precedents so I cannot speak as to those aspects of the book. From what I can tell, the book is accurate.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

It is a relatively new book but the law frequently changes so it will need to be updated. In addition, technological advances as they relate to criminal investigations are constantly being made so the book will need to be updated based on that as well.

Clarity rating: 5

The text is easy to read and well organized.

Consistency rating: 5

There are no issues with consistency. The book is consistent in terns of use of terminology and framework.

Modularity rating: 5

This book could easily be used to assign specific chapters. Each chapter stands alone but the content follows a logical manner in its explanation of criminal investigations.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

This book is well organized.

Interface rating: 5

The interface was fine. There was nothing confusing or distracting. It was well organized and easy to read.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

I found no major problems with grammar. The text was understandable and easy to read.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

There was nothing culturally offensive about this book.

The length of this book makes it appealing for an introductory course in criminal investigations. The author covers the areas thoroughly and is concise.

research articles on criminal investigation

Reviewed by Richard Riner, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice/ Criminology, Buena Vista University on 12/16/21

This is a short text, 203 pages versus 519 pages for the book I am currently using for the Criminal Investigations course. It covers the basics, but that is about all it does. The book takes a very broad look at the investigative process, which... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

This is a short text, 203 pages versus 519 pages for the book I am currently using for the Criminal Investigations course. It covers the basics, but that is about all it does. The book takes a very broad look at the investigative process, which makes it appropriate for those with no formal introduction into police work or investigations, but for those who are familiar with the process and might be looking for an in-depth examination of specific issues that can occur within the scope of an investigation, this book does not seem to be intended for that purpose. For example, a death investigation is different enough in nature and procedure that most texts devote a chapter to examining the inherent complexities and procedural challenges that accompany the investigation into the death of another human being. This book discusses major cases, and while death investigations certainly fall within that category, there is not a lot of material devoted to them, and that material is under the topic of Forensics.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

The book was written by and for students in Canada, while my background in law enforcement in the United States. However, the fact that many current and former law enforcement officials were consulted for the creation of this book lead me to believe that form a policy and procedure standpoint the book is accurate. In order to do due diligence for this section, I researched Canadian procedures (a very educational exercise) and found everything in the book to be accurate.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

Because the book is written from a broader frame of reference, it's utility will outlast many books in the field. Criminal Justice is an ever-changing field, and the more specific the material the more susceptible it is to changes in the landscape with regard to policy and procedure. By staying broad in scope the book discusses issues and practices that have relevant for many years and will remain so for the foreseeable future. This book will age well.

The book is written in a straightforward language without a heavy reliance on jargon. The cases cited are not what I am used to being the book was written essentially for a Canadian audience, but the explanation of the importance and relevance of the cases would be easily understood. Anyone with an interest in investigations would be able to read this book and understand the message of the authors.

Consistency rating: 4

The voice in which the book was written remains consistent throughout. The terms used to refer to the various concepts or practices are such that once a person understands them they will be able to apply them later in the text to aid in understanding later concepts.

The text is broken down into chapters, as most texts are, but them the authors have further broken the text down into topics within each chapter. This makes locating a passage of text easily done. From an instructor stand point this is a feature I would find especially useful during the presentation of textbook material in class. Having the chapters broken down in this manner will make the task of learning easier for students as well.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

When teaching about the process of a criminal investigation, I find it helpful to address topic in the order that an investigator is likely to deal with them when carrying out an investigation, beginning with the initial response to the scene of the crime, and ending with testimony during the trial. This text is not organized in such a way. The order in which topics are presented is not inherently confusing, but for someone who "walks" students through the process means there would be a fair amount of jumping back and forth between chapters to approach the material chronologically.

There were no issues with navigating the book. I downloaded a PDF of the text so it could accessed offline. And while there not active links in the table of contents that a person could click to go directly to a specific chapter, finding a particular passage or topic was fairly easy. The charts that accompany the text were clear both with regard to the quality of the image and clarity of the concepts. There were not a great deal of photos in the text, perhaps only one of a photo array, but it was a good quality photo.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

I did not notice issues with grammar within the text.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

Since the text was created for a Canadian audience, I may not be the most qualified person to judge the cultural relevance if this particular text. However, I did not find any material that I would deem inappropriate of offensive. This text deals with material and incidents that can be upsetting or shocking to people, and does so in a manner that would not offensive to readers.

Overall, this could be a useful and instructive text for the right audience. Outside of Canada, its potential utility lessens. The text has some very good characteristics, which have been described earlier, and some that could be improves in later iterations of the text.

Reviewed by Graham Rankin, Visiting Assistant Professor, Chemistry, Western Oregon University on 7/29/21

There are extensive references including legal citations for Canadian Supreme Court decisions, and an an excellent list of study questions with answers at the end of the text. However, there is no glossary or index included which makes it more... read more

There are extensive references including legal citations for Canadian Supreme Court decisions, and an an excellent list of study questions with answers at the end of the text. However, there is no glossary or index included which makes it more difficult to find the definition of a term or individual pages where a topic is covered.

Appears to be fairly accurate. I am not familiar with Caradon law so I am assuming these sections are accurate. Because the Forensic Science chapter is very superficial some aspects, while not inaccurate, are incomplete. For instance, Ballistics is considered outmoded and Firearms Identification is preferred. Accelerant and Arson are discouraged from use as Fire Debris Analysis, Suspicious Fire and Ignitable Liquid Determination are the recommended terms. Only the jury can determine if the presence of an ignitable liquid was used by the accused as an accelerant in the commission of the crime of arson. Also Bite Mark Evidence is now considered pseudoscience and may not be presented in court.

Publication date is 2016 which is reasonably recent, however an updated edition should be considered in light of new developments in analysis of trace evidence, DNA genealogical matching, and digital evidence, especially cell phone tracing of a suspect's movements.

Clarity rating: 4

Generally very clear, except for the too brief Forensic Science chapter. Also the correct packaging of evidence needs to be included as the uniformed officer may be tasked with this at the crime scene.

With the exception of Chapter 10 it is very consistent.

Each chapter is divided into Topics with study questions at the end of each chapter.

Very good. Example forms for Crime Scene management and Evidence log are included.

Interface rating: 4

Scenarios could be expanded to encourage critical thinking by requiring the reader to formulate a hypothesis based on evidence, the test that hypothesis.

none noted.

The importance of photo and line-up procedures to include same race and general description is important for eye witness identification. Cultural issues were discussed in light of interviewing witnesses and suspects.

This text is intended for training police officers who may be involved in crime scene investigation and interviewing suspects and witnesses. In that respect it does a very good job in developing a mindset for the officer to follow in the course of his/her duties. The major downside is this is a Canadian publication and thus will need considerable additional lecture and written information relating to US federal and state legal issues especially Chapter 2. While many of the aspects of rights of the suspect are common, the legal framework and court cases will be different. The overall approach includes case scenarios and study questions at the end of each chapter. Aside from those unique to Canadian law, these are excellent and could be used in a Crime Scene Investigation course in a Criminal Justice department. Some topics in crime scene security, collection and preservation of evidence could be included in introductory courses in Forensic Science. Chapter 10 is the only chapter relating directly to Forensic Science. Some topics like Forensic Pathology are fairly detailed whereas Forensic Chemistry is a short paragraph, mostly a listing of areas of analysis, i.e. fire debris analysis, drug analysis, toxicology. As a result this text would be unsuitable as the sole text for even an Introduction to Forensic Science course.

Reviewed by paul Zipper, Adjunct Faculty, Northern Essex Community College on 4/15/21

The Text was written utilizing Canadian law. This became problematic when addressing legal concepts in the US. There was no index or glossary of terms. The text would have benefited with an index and glossary of terms at the end. read more

The Text was written utilizing Canadian law. This became problematic when addressing legal concepts in the US. There was no index or glossary of terms. The text would have benefited with an index and glossary of terms at the end.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

The major investigative steps in the book was accurate. However when delving deeper into the text, it was clear Canadian terminology and US terminology and laws are different and don't mesh seamlessly. There are minor spelling nuances between the US and Canada. We use the term "offense" Canadians use "offence" as an example.

The 11 chapters were organized and hit the major areas in Criminal Investigation. Necessary updates can fit into the current template.

Clarity rating: 1

The major investigative step are well written. However Canadian Jargon/laws/terminology do not translate into concepts found in US law.

The terminology and framework are consistent- yet not applicable to what we do in the US

Modularity found in this course is a strength. Having used the text the last several semesters, it is easy to use with a traditional 14 week semester. It also covers the major concepts in a manner that is not overwhelming to students. Each week of the semester a major concept is covered and additional case studies and article are utilized to support the chapter we are covering.

The book is well organized. It takes the students through a traditional investigative flow. It has a strong introduction and covers the necessary preliminary steps and investigator/student would need to know before moving on to the next one.

The text is free of interface issues; that being said the text would be enhanced by adding some images and charts to enhance the materials.

Minor grammatical errors

I found no material in the text that would in any way be considered insensitive or offensive.

I think this is an excellent OER. It is well organized and covers major investigative steps in an organized fashion. The major downside is the audience it was written for are Canadian Law Enforcement Officers. I am teaching college students in Massachusetts, USA. A majority of the investigative steps and concepts are transferrable to the US. However, Canadian law and criminal procedure are different than US Federal law and the laws in each of our 50 states and territories. This text works with supplemental materials from the jurisdiction it is taught in being inserted. The instructor needs to point out the differences during class discussion.

Reviewed by William Powers, Adjunct Faculty, Bristol Community College on 5/29/20

Comprehensive instructions from first responding Officer to crime scene preservation, documentation, interviews and interrogation plus (Canadian) legal aspects. read more

Comprehensive instructions from first responding Officer to crime scene preservation, documentation, interviews and interrogation plus (Canadian) legal aspects.

Written in a straight forward, unbiased, usually step by step progression.

Text is based on Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so legal aspects are not likely to drastically change. Text can be easily edited and updated for changes and new rulings in case law.

Wording is clear, minimal use of technical terminology. The only thing I had to research was the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for comparison to American Constitution/Bill of Rights.

Proper use of terminology, some easily understood Canadian phrasing.

Book is properly divided by chapter and sub-divided to explain more detailed subject matter.

Good progression of subject matter from Intro through legal aspects to strategic organization and tactical use of crime scene protocols.

The few charts in the book were clear and easily understood. No distortion.

Grammatical Errors rating: 3

Some grammatical and punctuation errors scattered throughout the book. Ch. 7 Topic 2 Witness Types became confusing grammatically. Poorly worded in identifying direct, indirect, circumstantial evidence and witnesses. Ch 8 Note Taking. A quote (?) was opened with parentheses, parentheses were never closed.

Examples were non-offensive.

This text will be useful to a Canadian instructor and classes of prospective Police Officers, especially those that intend to pursue careers in criminalistics. The heavy but necessary reliance on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms limits the books usefulness in other countries. Officers in the United States will be unnecessarily confused by the mixture of Canadian rights and the American Bill of Rights/Constitution. (This reviewer is from the U.S.) I myself will explore the use of Ch 8 as a quality example of proper crime scene security. The chapter shows how a first responding Officer should establish proper limited access to the crime scene, how to use an Officer assigned to maintaining a Crime Scene Security Log to limit access to and document egress times at a scene, and use of an Exhibit Log by a Forensics team supervisor to protect evidence integrity.

Reviewed by Robert Engvall, Professor, Roger Williams University on 11/5/19

This book provides a comprehensive look at introductory criminal investigation. It does a nice job of laying a proper foundation through introducing basic concepts leading through to chapters on crime scene management and forensic sciences. read more

This book provides a comprehensive look at introductory criminal investigation. It does a nice job of laying a proper foundation through introducing basic concepts leading through to chapters on crime scene management and forensic sciences.

This book is entirely accurate in its portrayal of criminal investigation.

This book is particularly relevant given today's increasingly complicated criminal justice climate. Criminal investigations are under increased scrutiny (appropriately so) and this book introduces that important new reality.

This book is clear, concise, valuable to the reader.

This book provides consistency throughout.

Each chapter provides its own information and could easily stand alone as a section of study. The context is set appropriately in the beginning of the book and some basic concepts follow leading through to more complicated crime scene management.

Each chapter stands alone, and is clearly organized. The flow is appropriate as the book takes the reader from context to basics to more complicated and reality based principles.

The book is easy to read, easy to look at, well organized.

Grammar is fine.

The book is appropriate for today's world.

This book truly does provide a solid foundation for a criminal investigation student. It would be of value to any undergraduate criminal investigation course.

Reviewed by Michael Buerger, Professor of Criminal Justice, Bowling Green State University, Ohio on 2/1/18

The text under review is written for Canadian investigators, and rests on Canadian law and case precedents. That limits its applicability to the American market, and in some ways limits the value of an assessment by an American reviewer. Many... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

The text under review is written for Canadian investigators, and rests on Canadian law and case precedents. That limits its applicability to the American market, and in some ways limits the value of an assessment by an American reviewer. Many sections do not have direct applicability, despite the general similarities between the two systems. Even though there are clear parallels in the legal systems, Canadian case law under a national charter will not have broad applicability in the United States context. State laws, federal appellate districts, and Supreme Court decisions are all operant, and the applicable legal rules may differ between jurisdictions when there are no federal precedents (the Scenario #2 domestic violence example on page 53 is such an example, for instance). The overview in Chapter 1 is excellent, and can be applied equally to criminal investigations in any democratic context. Chapter 2’s discussion of “discretion” is a good example of that adaptability, for instance: the overall effect of the first two chapters is positive enough to make me wish there could be an American version.

The approach taken by the authors is a sensible and much-needed addition to the presentation of criminal investigations. Distinguishing between investigative tasks and investigative thinking is a recurring thematic guide, and it is articulated well throughout the book. Though the distinction might be made more explicitly, the authors recognize that criminal investigations begin with the arrival of the first responding unit, almost always a uniformed officer rather than an investigator, and they incorporate that perspective throughout. The roles described on page 13 are equally applicable to Canadian and U.S. criminal justice personnel.

Not all of the examples are as useful as they might be. The example on page 36 – “I really need some money. I’m going to rob that bank tomorrow.” – is far more explicit than the type of circumstantial evidence investigators are likely to encounter. While the statement is useful, it is unrealistically specific: improvements might include the addition of variations on the theme of such utterances, such as: “I really need some money. Maybe I should rob a bank” and “I really, really need money. I’m desperate.” The greater ambiguity embedded in those statements is a greater test of the thinking discipline that the authors promote.

Page 43: the issue of consent may be that simple in Canada, but American cases rest on whether or not the person giving consent has authority to do so: cohabitants, roommates with specific areas of privacy vs. general-use spaces, landlords rather than tenants, and similar variations are not addressed here.

The distinction between Tactical and Strategic responses is a valid one, but it is dragged out a bit more than it needs to be on pp. 48-51; it is laborious reading, leaning to the tendentious. The concept is clear, but the explanation drags. One of the issues related to that distinction is the role of first-responding patrol officers, and subsequent follow-up investigation by detectives

The discussion of the stabbing incident that occupies pages 55-57 is important for establishing the “step-down” requirement when an exigent circumstances scene is brought under control. It is described in Canadian terms, but has American analogs.

The presentations focus more on philosophy than technique, and the links between the two are not consistent throughout. While the overview of forensic evidence is a good introductory treatment, I expected at least some reference to collection techniques, since the lab work is dependent upon crime scene work.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of the Canadian legal components, but the elements that apply to the fundamental of the work are sound.

Relevance and longevity should be good. Changes in law, and changes in or addition to the forensic techniques will require periodic updating, but that should be accomplished easily.

The writing is clear, although repetitive in some places, leaning to the tendentious in a few spots. My only real concern would be that the some readers might get lost in the philosophy of thinking, to the detriment of understanding the associated techniques.

Consistency of approach and terminology, and associated linkages in different sections, is good.

Modularity rating: 4

The modules are a strength of the book; my only criticism is that they are more uneven in their content than I would expect. A number of one-short-paragraph modules are ripe for at least some further development.

The text is clear, and easy to follow.

I experienced no interface problems at all.

Allowing for the different systems of punctuation, the book is error-free in terms of grammar. There are some annoying proofreading errors that stand out, however: Page 62: a comma rather than a period at the end of the second sentence of the “Common Error #3” paragraph. Page 65: redundant “situation” in the third paragraph (lower case followed by a capitalized Boldface). Page 82, final paragraph: “articles of evid. . . ase” are proofreading errors Page 92: Need a space between “crime.” and “Understanding” Page 120, third line of the “Like photo lineups” paragraph: the semi-colon should be a comma. A comma after “suspect” in the second line would help clarify the subordinate clause issue.

Cultural references are mostly absent, and for good reason, I think. They are a larger element in investigations, more fragmented in their application, and deserve separate, free-standing treatment. I saw no references that raised red flags for offensive content.

The first “Interviewing” paragraph at the bottom of page 123, carrying over to page 124, begins with the premise that “In fact, the person is not even definable as a suspect at this point,” but immediately shifts to a previously-discussed point (perpetrators acting as witnesses or reporters in order to deflect suspicion) and remains on that point to the end. Far more persons are interviewed who do not fit this category than are those who are, and the narrow focus on “suspect” for this portion is disconcerting.

The main focus of the chapter is on offenders, which at some point the investigation must be, but the broader preliminary interview phases need better development. Chapter 7 deals more with typologies than techniques, so a broader treatment of non-suspect witness interviews (and recontact interviews) would be helpful.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Some Important Basic Concepts
  • Chapter 3: What You Need To Know About Evidence
  • Chapter 4: The Process of Investigation
  • Chapter 5: Strategic Investigative Response
  • Chapter 6: Applying the Investigative Tools
  • Chapter 7: Witness Management
  • Chapter 8: Crime Scene Management
  • Chapter 9: Interviewing, Questioning, and Interrogation
  • Chapter 10: Forensic Sciences
  • Chapter 11: Summary

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Introduction to Criminal Investigation, Processes, Practices, and Thinking is a teaching text designed to assist the student in developing their own structured mental map of processes, practices, and thinking to conduct criminal investigations.

Delineating criminal investigation into operational descriptors of tactical-response and strategic response while using illustrations of task-skills and thinking-skills, the reader is guided into structured thinking practices. Using the graphic tools of a “Response Transition Matrix”, an “Investigative Funnel”, and the “STAIR Tool”, the reader is shown how to form their own mental map of investigative thinking that can later be articulated in support of forming their reasonable grounds to believe.

Chapter 1 introduces criminal investigation as both a task process and a thinking process. This chapter outlines these concepts, rules, and processes with the goal of providing practical tools to ensure successful investigative processes and practices. Most importantly, this book informs the reader how to approach the investigative process using “investigative thinking.”

Chapter 2 illustrates investigation by establishing an understanding of the operational forum in which it occurs. That forum is the criminal justice system and in particular, the court system. The investigative process exists within the statutory rules of law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and case law rulings adjudicated by the courts. Considering the existence of these conditions, obligations, and case law rules, there are many terms and concepts that an investigator needs to understand to function appropriately and effectively within the criminal justice system. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce some of the basic legal parameters and concepts of criminal justice within which the criminal investigation process takes place.

Chapter 3 describes the functions and terms of “evidence”, as they relate to investigation. This speaks to a wide range of information sources that might eventually inform the court to prove or disprove points at issue before the trier of fact. Sources of evidence can include anything from the observations of witnesses to the examination and analysis of physical objects. It can even include the spatial relationships between people, places, and objects within the timeline of events. From the various forms of evidence, the court can draw inferences and reach conclusions to determine if a charge has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Considering the critical nature of evidence within the court system, there are a wide variety of definitions and protocols that have evolved to direct the way evidence is defined for consideration by the court. In this chapter, we look at some of the key definitions and protocols that an investigator should understand to carry out the investigative process.

Chapter 4 breaks investigation down into logical steps, establishing a progression that can be followed and repeated to reach the desired results. The process of investigation can be effectively explained and learned in this manner. In this chapter the reader is introduced to various issues in the progression that relate to the process of investigation.

Chapter 5 examines the operational processes of investigation. In this chapter we introduce the three big investigative errors along with graphic illustrations of “The Investigative Funnel” and the “S T A I R Tool” to illustrate how each of these concepts in the investigative progression.

Chapter 6 provides the reader the opportunity to work through some investigative scenarios using the S T A I R Tool. These scenarios demonstrate the investigative awareness required to transition from the tactical investigative response to the strategic investigative response. Once in the strategic response mode the reader is challenged to practice applying theory development to conduct analysis of the evidence and information to create an investigative plan.

This chapter presents two investigative scenarios each designed to illustrate different steps of the S T A I R tool allowing the student to recognize both the tactical and the strategic investigative responses and the implications of transitioning from the tactical to the strategic response.

Chapter 7 illustrates the investigative practices of witness management. Witness statements will assist the investigator in forming reasonable grounds to lay a charge, and will assist the court in reaching a decision that the charge against an accused person has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is important for an investigator to understand these practices as they allow an investigator to evaluate witnesses and collect witness evidence that will be acceptable to the courts.

Chapter 8 describes crime scene management skills. These skills are an extremely significant task component of investigation because evidence that originates at the crime scene will provide a picture of events for the court to consider in its deliberations. That picture will be composed of witness testimony, crime scene photographs, physical exhibits, and the analysis of those exhibits, along with the analysis of the crime scene itself. From this chapter, the reader will learn the task processes and protocols for several important issues in crime scene management.

Chapter 9 examines the interviewing, questioning, and interrogation techniques police use to aid them in investigations. The courts expect police to exercise high standards using practices that focus on the rights of the accused person, and minimize any physical or mental anguish that might cause a false confession. In meeting these expectations, the challenges of suspect questioning and interrogation can be complex, and many police agencies have trained interrogators and polygraph operators who undertake the interrogation of suspects for major criminal cases. But not every investigation qualifies as a major case, and frontline police investigators are challenged to undertake the tasks of interviewing, questioning, and interrogating possible suspects daily. The challenge for police is that the questioning of a suspect and the subsequent confession can be compromised by flawed interviewing, questioning, or interrogation practices. Understanding the correct processes and the legal parameters can make the difference between having a suspect's confession accepted as evidence by the court or not.

Chapter 10 examines various forensic sciences and the application of forensic sciences as practical tools to assist police in conducting investigations. As we noted in Chapter 1, it is not necessary for an investigator to be an expert in any of the forensic sciences; however, it is important to have a sound understanding of forensic tools to call upon appropriate experts to deploy the correct tools when required.

Chapter 11 summarizes the learning objectives of this text and suggests investigative learning topics for the reader going forward. Many topics relative to investigative practices have not been covered here as part of the core knowledge requirements for a new investigator. These topics include:

Major Case Management Informant and confidential source management Undercover investigations Specialized team investigations

About the Contributors

Rod Gehl , is a retired police Inspector, and an instructor of criminal investigation for International Programs and the Law Enforcement Studies Program at the Justice Institute of British Columbia. These ongoing teaching engagements are preceded by 35 years of policing experience as criminal investigator and a leader of multi-agency major case management teams. From his experiences Rod has been a keynote speaker at several international homicide conferences and has assisted in the development and presentation of Major Case Management courses for the Canadian Police College. For his contribution to policing he has been conferred the Lieutenant Governor’s Meritorious Service Award for homicide investigation.   Rod’s published research on the “The Dynamics of Police Cooperation in Multi-agency Investigations”, was followed by his article, titled, “Multi-agency Teams, A Leadership Challenge”, featured in the US Police Chief Magazine. Rod retains a licence as a private investigator and security consultant and continues to work with regulatory compliance agencies in both public and private sector organizations for the development of their investigative training and systems.

Darryl Plecas is Professor Emeritus at University of the Fraser Valley where he worked for 34 years, most recently holding the Senior University Research Chair (RCMP) and Directorship of the Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research. As Professor Emeritus he continues to co-author work with colleagues and supervises graduate students. He also serves as Associate Research Faculty at California State University – Sacramento, and as an annually invited lecturer to the Yunnan Police College in Kunming, China. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 research reports, international journal articles, books, and other publications addressing a broad range public safety issues. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including UFV’s Teaching Excellence Award, the Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Technology Award from the International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, the Order of Abbotsford, the CCSA Award of Excellence, and the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Public Safety. His most recent co-authored book “Evidenced Based Decision Making for Government Professionals” was awarded the 2016 Professional Development Award from the Canadian Association of Municipalities.

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Criminal Justice


Academic Writing Services

Principles of criminal investigations.

This article explores the foundational principles that govern criminal investigations within the United States criminal justice system. Beginning with an overview of the critical role investigations play in establishing truth and ensuring justice, the discussion delves into four key principles. Firstly, the imperative of lawful and ethical conduct is examined, emphasizing the impact of adherence to legal and ethical standards on the admissibility of evidence. The article then explores the nexus between investigations and constitutional rights, focusing on due process and the Fourth Amendment. A thorough analysis of the integration of scientific methods and forensic techniques underscores the modernization of investigative practices. The significance of thoroughness and attention to detail in maintaining the integrity of investigations is emphasized. Subsequently, the article scrutinizes contemporary challenges, including the delicate balance between privacy and security, the ethical use of technology and data, and the influence of public perception and media on investigative processes. In conclusion, a summary of key points is provided, highlighting the collective role of these principles in shaping effective criminal investigations, with a forward-looking perspective on future trends and considerations in this evolving field.


Criminal investigations constitute the bedrock of the United States criminal justice system, serving as a meticulous and principled process aimed at uncovering the truth, identifying suspects, and establishing a robust foundation for prosecution. In essence, the investigative phase is a crucible where justice is forged, and public trust is maintained. This article embarks on a journey to illuminate the fundamental principles that underpin criminal investigations in the U.S., acknowledging its pivotal role in upholding the rule of law. The purpose of this exploration is to delve into the multifaceted aspects of criminal investigations, deciphering the ethical and legal considerations that guide investigators through a labyrinth of complexities. By scrutinizing the overarching goals of investigations and their integral role in the broader criminal justice panorama, this article seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding of the principles that form the cornerstone of the investigative process within the intricate fabric of the U.S. legal system.

Fundamental Principles of Criminal Investigations

Criminal investigations are an intricate dance between the pursuit of truth, the preservation of justice, and the strict adherence to principles that safeguard the integrity of the process. Principle 1: Lawful and Ethical Conduct is the foundational cornerstone, demanding investigators operate within the boundaries of legal statutes and ethical guidelines. It is not merely a moral imperative but a requisite for the admissibility of evidence in court. The weight of ethical conduct is particularly evident when investigators grapple with nuanced dilemmas, such as undercover operations, informant handling, and the use of potentially invasive surveillance techniques. This principle is a sentinel guarding against the erosion of public trust, as deviations from ethical standards can undermine the legitimacy of the entire investigative process.

Transitioning to Principle 2: Due Process and Constitutional Rights, the spotlight turns to the constitutional framework that governs investigations. Here, the Fourth Amendment emerges as a sentinel, shielding individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. The delicate balance between law enforcement’s duty to investigate and an individual’s right to privacy is encapsulated within this principle. The historical evolution of due process, illuminated through landmark cases like Miranda v. Arizona and Terry v. Ohio, reflects a continual calibration of the scales to ensure justice is served without compromising the very liberties the legal system is designed to protect.

Principle 3: Scientific Methods and Forensic Techniques signifies the evolution of investigations into the realm of technology and scientific advancements. The investigator’s toolkit now includes DNA analysis, forensic evidence, and cutting-edge technology. This principle underscores the need for reliability, validity, and transparency in the application of scientific methods. However, it also demands a critical examination of potential biases and limitations associated with these techniques. The intersection of science and justice requires not only an understanding of technology but a commitment to ensuring its responsible and ethical use in the pursuit of truth.

In the realm of investigations, Principle 4: Thoroughness and Attention to Detail is a guiding philosophy. It emphasizes that the process of uncovering truth is not a hasty endeavor but a meticulous journey. The consequences of oversight, negligence, or shortcuts can reverberate through the criminal justice system, potentially leading to wrongful convictions or the evasion of justice. This principle echoes the sentiment that justice delayed is better than justice compromised, emphasizing the need for investigators to be thorough, detail-oriented, and unwavering in their pursuit of a comprehensive understanding of the facts.

In summation, these principles collectively form the ethical and procedural compass that guides investigators through the intricate labyrinth of criminal investigations. They serve as a reminder that the pursuit of justice must be not only relentless but principled, ensuring that the outcome aligns not only with legal statutes but with the moral and ethical underpinnings of a just society. As investigations evolve in response to societal changes, technological advancements, and legal precedents, these fundamental principles remain the bedrock upon which the credibility and efficacy of the criminal justice system stand.

Challenges and Controversies in Criminal Investigations

Navigating the terrain of criminal investigations is not only a pursuit of truth but an engagement with a myriad of contemporary challenges and controversies that have reshaped the landscape of justice. Challenge 1: Balancing Privacy and Security stands as a pivotal dilemma in the digital age, where the incessant demand for thorough investigations clashes with the imperative to protect individual privacy rights. The advent of sophisticated surveillance technologies, data mining, and predictive analytics introduces a complex interplay between the needs of law enforcement and the preservation of civil liberties. Legal frameworks, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, have expanded the scope of permissible surveillance, yet concerns persist about the potential erosion of privacy rights. Striking the right balance requires a delicate calibration of legal statutes to ensure that investigations remain effective without compromising the very freedoms they aim to protect.

Challenge 2: Use of Technology and Data delves into the transformative impact of technology on investigative practices. While technological advancements offer unprecedented capabilities for evidence gathering and analysis, they simultaneously pose ethical challenges. The ethical use of surveillance, artificial intelligence, and big data analytics requires careful consideration to avoid encroachments on privacy, the risk of bias, and potential misuse. A delicate dance unfolds between harnessing the benefits of technology and safeguarding against its unintended consequences. As technology continues to evolve, maintaining a balance that upholds both investigative efficacy and individual rights remains an ongoing challenge for criminal investigators.

The landscape of criminal investigations is not confined solely to legal and technological considerations; Challenge 3: Public Perception and Media Influence introduces a societal dimension that can significantly impact the trajectory of investigations. High-profile cases, sensationalized by media coverage, often become trials by public opinion. The court of public perception, fueled by the 24-hour news cycle and social media, can exert immense pressure on investigators, prosecutors, and even the judiciary. This challenge accentuates the delicate nature of investigations, where public sentiment can influence not only the outcome of a case but the overall trust in the criminal justice system. Striking a balance between transparency, public information, and the protection of due process becomes an intricate challenge in an era where information travels at unprecedented speeds.

These challenges collectively underscore the evolving nature of criminal investigations in the contemporary landscape. As investigations become increasingly sophisticated and interconnected with technological advancements, the delicate equilibrium between security and civil liberties, the ethical use of technology, and the influence of public perception must be continually recalibrated. Acknowledging these challenges is not an admission of defeat but an invitation to engage in a perpetual process of adaptation and improvement. As the criminal justice system navigates this intricate terrain, it must do so with a commitment to upholding the principles of justice, ensuring the rights of individuals are safeguarded, and maintaining public trust in the pursuit of truth.

In conclusion, the exploration of the fundamental principles and challenges in criminal investigations underscores the intricate tapestry of the United States criminal justice system. Summarizing the key points, it is evident that adherence to Principle 1: Lawful and Ethical Conduct establishes the bedrock for credible investigations, emphasizing the far-reaching consequences of ethical decision-making on the evidentiary landscape. Principle 2: Due Process and Constitutional Rights reinforces the constitutional framework as the backbone of investigative practices, ensuring the delicate balance between law enforcement necessities and individual rights. The integration of Principle 3: Scientific Methods and Forensic Techniques reflects the continual evolution of investigative tools, highlighting the pivotal role of science and technology in modern justice. Lastly, Principle 4: Thoroughness and Attention to Detail serves as a constant reminder of the meticulous nature investigations demand, steering clear of shortcuts that could jeopardize the pursuit of truth.

Yet, as this article unfolds, it becomes apparent that the journey of criminal investigations is fraught with contemporary challenges. The intricate dance of Challenge 1: Balancing Privacy and Security necessitates constant recalibration in response to legal and technological shifts. Challenge 2: Use of Technology and Data propels investigators into an era where the ethical use of technology requires a delicate touch to harness its benefits without infringing on privacy or veering into potential misuse. Challenge 3: Public Perception and Media Influence introduces a societal dimension, where the court of public opinion and media coverage become influential forces shaping the trajectory of investigations.

Looking forward, it is imperative to acknowledge these challenges not as insurmountable obstacles but as catalysts for continual improvement. As emerging trends and considerations reshape the landscape, a commitment to the foundational principles discussed herein remains paramount. This commitment ensures that the criminal justice system evolves with integrity, adaptability, and a steadfast dedication to truth, justice, and the preservation of individual rights. In the perpetual motion of the criminal investigative process, this article serves as a testament to the enduring importance of principles, adaptability, and a forward-looking perspective in sustaining the delicate balance between order and justice.


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Role of Artificial Intelligence in Criminal Investigation

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