The Criminal investigation process: prepared under a grant from the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, LEAA, Department of Justice

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A 2-year study of police investigation was conducted to describe national investigative organization and practices, assess the contribution that police investigation makes to the achievement of criminal justice goals, determine the effectiveness of new technology and systems being used to improve investigations, and relate investigational effectiveness to differences in organization. Data were collected from questionnaires completed from 153 jurisdictions whose law enforcement departments had 150 or more officers. Over 25 agencies were then selected for more detailed study. The results of the study are presented in three volumes; the first volume includes a summary and discusses policy implications. The study found that differences in investigative training, staffing, and procedures had little effect on crime, arrest, or clearance rates. The method by which police investigators were organized was also not related to variations in crime, arrest, and clearance rates. The most important determinant of a successful investigation was the information supplied by the victim to the immediately responding patrol officer. Routine police procedures often led to the clearance of crimes in which the perpetrator was not immediately identifiable at the beginning of the investigation. While investigators often collected from physical evidence than could be productively analyzed, latent fingerprints were rarely the only basis upon which a suspect was identified. Police failure to document a case investigation thoroughly can contribute to a higher case dismissal rate. The researchers made several recommendations designed to save resources and lead to a greater number of arrests and successful prosecutions. The second volume describes the survey design and patterns of response. The descriptive results are discussed in terms of overall departmental characteristics, investigators' rank and qualifications, organization of the investigative function, interaction with other criminal justice agencies, investigative policies and operations, records and files, and innovative programs. In the final chapter, arrest and clearance rates of the responding departments are compared with other characteristics of the departments. However, the analysis showed no strong and consistent patterns that have operational significance for the organization of the investigative function. The third volume presents a comprehensive description of the criminal investigation process and analyzes those issues that can be illustrated by quantitative data. As a foundation for describing police investigations, the researchers identified its objectives, including deterring and preventing crime, uncovering the occurrence of crime, identifying and apprehending offenders, recovering stolen property, supporting prosecution, and maintaining public confidence in the police. The components of this criminal investigation study are described in detail here, including a literature review, description of the investigative function, how detectives spend their time, how crimes are solved, the role of physical evidence collection and processing, investigative thoroughness, information feedback to victims, and the investigative strike force.

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