Introduction to Criminal Investigation: Processes, Practices and Thinking
Rod Gehl, Justice Institute of British Columbia
Darryl Plecas, University of the Fraser Valley
Pub Date: 2017
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The text under review is written for Canadian investigators, and rests on Canadian law and case precedents. That limits its applicability to the read more
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.
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
About the Authors
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
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.