Ability Of Investigators To Identify A Suspect Criminology Essay

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When a crime occurs, it is consider as a national issue and its regulation is mainly under the umbrella of the law enforcement agencies. When officials are unsuccessful to stop or even successfully treat with the crime, there are negative consequences taking place. Such failures are upon the responsibility of the investigators. However, successful investigators must have crucial abilities such as good communication skills, strong ethics, initiative, be creative, patient, resourcefulness and compassion. Furthermore, investigators must always be cautious and responsible of their duty. Regardless of title, pay or rank, investigative officers are more operational when they retain particular intellectual, psychological and physical features. Investigators must work hard and learn from the training and then apply the knowledge observed into their work. They must know and understand the elements of the crime, then be able to apply investigative techniques and lastly be able to work with many different types of people. Outstanding intelligence is not a mandatory attribute of an effective investigator; objectivity, logic and common sense are more vital. Investigators need to stay open-minded and trained in interrelating along with gender, ethnic, social and political groups (Becker, 2009). This theoretical framework however, brings different results in practice because bias does influence the ability of investigators to identify a suspect in some degree. This can be the result of some crucial factors, with some having larger influence than the others but with the outcome remaining the same; as it will be explain and discuss later. Some of these factors might be the investigator's instinct, the media, society as a whole including ethnicity, race, economic and educational background, false eyewitness testimony, false collection of evidence and even 'sensitive' cases, such as child pornography or child abuse. A good investigator must remain objective at all stages, but taking these crucial factors under consideration, it is clearly defined that regardless the extent of bias occurring, this will influence the ability of investigators to identify a suspect and consequently there is a need to regulate it and balance it.

Criminal investigation is a reconstructive practice that uses empirical thinking, a rational progression in which an assumption follows from particular proofs. Based on unambiguous sections of evidence, investigators launch proof that a suspect is guilty of an offence. Investigators are demanding to leave behind any issues that might arise and that evidence needed to support the prosecutor's case. The main aim in a criminal investigation is whether a crime has, in fact, existed. Then, the investigators must recognize if the evidence is backing up a particular crime, and a lawful seizure cannot be made for an act that is not well-defined by law or regulation as a crime. Even though every person has an idea of what crime is, investigators must have a very accurate understanding of what it means and apply the techniques and methods available to them, avoiding any prejudice and levels of biases regarding the crime, the suspect or the victim (Hess & Orthmann, 2010).

Investigators are making decisions constantly, and in order to be effective, their decisions must be based on solid facts. When investigators evaluate material and evidence, they focus on what is identified rather than probabilities and inferences, and they exclude personal beliefs as much as possible. With appropriate evidences, investigators can make effective implications, from which they can rationally make confident assumptions. Though investigators must draw inferences and form theories, they must also remain open-minded and willing to consider alternatives. Objectivity is critical and when an inference is made, its influence must be verified by analysing the facts on which it is grounded. All substitutes have to be measured; or else, appreciated time may be lost, evidence may possibly dissolve or the case may simply remain unresolved. As Stelfox and Pease stated, 'the investigation process is made up with two stages. The first is the suspect identification stage, and the second is the case building or the stage that the investigator is trying to find evidence of guilt. At this second stage, there is a possibility that the legislative and rational pressure to move hastily from the investigation to the verification mode can lead to injustices' (2005). For example, consider a white investigator, examining a murder case in Bronx NY. Given the social demographic of the area, the crime is more likely to involve black people, or members of ethnic minorities, when compared with the social demographics of the other four NY boroughs. A false generalization of the case would conclude for the investigator, that the offender is 'black', and therefore the incorrect reasoning of the investigator is a 'natural' response most commonly based on stereotypes of the specific area.

Investigators come across and talk with people from all walks of life- males and females, rich and poor, adults and juveniles- and for that reason they must adjust their approaches and practices to each one. Investigators also improve understanding and ability in investigative performances such as questioning, cross-examining, photographing, examining, and many other areas. These knowledge and skills however, are established through efficient preparation along with the investigator's own experience. Related with initiation are those heuristics shape upon knowledge, which may be called 'common sense reasoning', and the use of 'schemata' of previous cases that they try to fit and regulate new intelligence discoveries to. Reasoning by analogy looks for previous examples which appear to match an existing and to some extent unidentified situation. Investigators also have a tendency to make things easier and explain events into a fairly small number of options and allocate (most of the times mentally) 'relative likelihoods'. According to Falvey et al., 'the mind uses a variety of heuristics (cognitive shortcuts) to handle the information overload that is characteristic of complex judgments. These heuristics tend to reduce the complexity of problems by assessing probabilities based on a limited number of variables across many cases at the expense of considering innumerable variables germane to one individual'. This approach can be very useful and powerful, but there are, additional risks that may lurk with common sense heuristics, even those based upon sophisticated applications of likelihood. These dangers reside in an individual's inevitably limited experience of low incidence events (Tong & Bryant, 2009). Suppose an investigator attends a crime scene and realizes that the victim is one of the country's most famous politicians, who few days ago was going from one TV programme to another accusing male 'X' for human trafficking. The investigator will automatically seek male 'X' as the main suspect of the murder and regulates all the procedures around him. However, this a crucial point because given the nature of the type of the crime, the investigator's experience or common sense, are simply not reliable enough for such a case. Trainee investigators are often as confident in their wrong answers as they are in their correct ones (Tong & Bryant, 2009).

In difference with inductive reasoning, deductive attitudes start with anticipations and a broader statute and adopt additional norms from these preliminary points. Deductive reasoning forms fragment of a wider set of concepts and approaches identified as 'logic' and it is often linked with the extensive field of argumentation. Deductive reasoning also has its weaknesses (Turvey, 2008). Mainly, it benefits investigators spread what they already know by establishing the significances of expectations rather than adding straight to the pool of 'new' information. Further, while the logic is faultless, the assessment of assumptions or suggestions is completely reliant on the accuracy of assumptions, or the evidences. In practice, intelligence arguments are perhaps made up of difficult sets of interpretations driving to a decision, since they are comprehensive opinions. These attitudes can lead the investigators to ratification or confirmation bias since it is more possible to look for evidence that confirms the arguments (Meissner & Kassin, 2004). For example, a kidnapping is taking place in a small town and the investigators are considering as the main suspect, the 'local weirdo' and therefore, all the searches are moving around him in order to find evidence to confirm the investigator's hypothesis.

Another fundamental factor that might lead the investigator to biased identifications is the psychological factors. Certain psychological characteristics are crucial to operational investigation (Kahneman & Trevsky, 1974). Investigation is extremely demanding job in nature and includes many decisions makings. It is common amongst investigators to become sufferers of pressure. They must show sympathy and kindness but, they must however, stay isolated and detached; or else, the harms of those with whom they are in communication will influence their objectivity, and it will drive the investigator's emotional well-being (Hess & Orthmann, 2010). For example, suppose a case involved a juvenile; child pornography or sexual abuse, and the investigator is a father of three children and by chance, the victim is at the same age with one of his children. The investigator therefore, will be influence by his beliefs and feelings, and his need to find the suspect will lead him to rush and unreasonable observations and consequently his objectivity will disappear by his need and personal emotions.

In Principles of Police Interrogation, Van Meter (1973) defined 'the potentials of a good interrogator, which comprised factors such as integrity, self-respect, and professional attitude. He also suggested that individual prejudices should be left outside of the interrogation room, since a good interrogator must be and remain impartial at all stages'. Based on Van Meter's personal experience, investigative bias can sometimes lead to false confessions and then convictions. A tendency to assume the suspects as "guilty" may set into motion a route of confirmatory hypothesis testing in which evidence of deception is perceived and coercive interrogation techniques are applied. Such a bias toward presuming guilt may thereby limit the diagnostic value of an interrogation and increase the likelihood that a false confession is ultimately obtained. Although the incidence of false confessions is unknown, there exist a disturbing number of documented cases in which defendants confessed and later retracted these confessions, but were convicted at trial and sometimes sentenced to death. Leo and Ofshe (1998) found that 73% of defendants were convicted at trial in cases that contained evidence of confessions later proved to be false. Researchers for The Innocence Project have also found that roughly a quarter of all DNA exoneration cases contained full or partial confessions, apparently false, in evidence.

An interrogation is conducted only when the investigator is reasonably convinced that a suspect is guilt. In the interrogation stage, extremely persistent and violent methods of interviewing are happening and this itself maximizes the risk of a false confession to occur (Meissner & Kassin, 2002). The interrogation process is as rational as possible, but still it does not ensure either investigators or the suspects from any errors. A good example is the re-opening of the 1989 Central Park athlete case, in which a young female was cruelly beaten, raped, and left for dead. Challenging the possibilities, she succeeded to survive, but until now she does not remember anything for the incident (Meili, 2003). After that, the investigators arrested and obtain confessions from five boys aged 14 to 16 and soon thereafter, they were convicted of the attack and sentenced to prison. Back then, it was a common senses understanding that the investigators aggressively interrogated the juveniles (Sullivan, 1992). In an up-to-date serial rapist case, the offender's DNA was found in sperm at the crime scene, and in combination with his confession, it came out that the 5 young boys were innocent and therefore their confessions apparently false (Kassin, 2002). Investigator response biases throughout the pre-interrogation consultation raise the probability that innocent defendants will be cross-examined by investigators who assume guilt, often with a high degree of confidence (Inbau et al., 2001).

Another difficulty is that the belief of guilt may affect an investigator's behaviour through the interrogation of a suspect (Mortimer & Shepherd, 1999). According to Inbau et al. (2001), 'an interrogation might be thought of as a theory-driven social interaction led by an authority figure who holds a strong a priori belief about the target and who measures success by his or her ability to extract an admission from that target'. Innocent people and the public, hope that investigators will stay open-minded from the beginning to the end in order to control the case and the situation between the suspect and the innocent, leaving their own beliefs at the side. (Van Meter, 1973). Nevertheless, recent research studies show that by the time an individual forms a belief about a certain event; they often unconsciously form behavioural evidence that confirms that specific belief. (McNatt, 2000). Investigators who drawn a belief that the specific suspect is guilt rather than innocent, they were asked more guilt-presumptive questions, more often refereed the suspect to be guilty, used more cruel techniques while interviewing, tried harder and exercised more pressure on suspects to make them confess, and made innocents sound more defensive and guilty to witnesses.

The eyewitness testimony system relies heavily on eyewitness identification for investigating and prosecuting crimes and it is definitely not a ground-breaking declaration to say that memory is not faultless. This notion, nevertheless, turn out to be even more multifaceted when it comes in the case of an eyewitness's memory for a criminal event. Frequently, the determination of a case can be influenced solely on eyewitness figures and, as such, the significances of a mistake can be serious (Turtle, Lindsay & Wells, 2003). Psychology has warned the criminal justice system for the potential problems regarding the eyewitness identification evidence and testimony. Contemporary DNA release cases have proved the carefulness of eyewitness identification researchers by presenting that faulty eyewitness identification was the main and particular reason that caused the conviction of innocent people (McCartney, 2006). These factors include characteristics of the witness, characteristics of the witnessed event, and characteristics of testimony, line-up content, line-up instructions, and methods of testing. (Dahl, Lindsay, & Brimacombe, 2006).

Criminal Profiling (CP) is the method of practise of guessing a criminal's nature, social, and demographic features established on crime scene confirmation (Hicks & Sales, 2006). This technique is being used by police agencies everywhere in the world regardless of no persuasive scientific evidence that it is trustworthy, effective, or beneficial (Snook, Eastwood, Gendreau, Goggin, & Cullen, 2007). CP is a technique that the majority of people, believe it actually works, but based on the literature regarding this method; it reveals the dull reality of this statement. Peak of the frameworks used to produce criminal profiles are nothing more than wrong typologies, most of CP methodologies are grounded on an old-fashioned concept of behaviour that absences experimental sustenance, and there is no convincing evidence that expectations prepared by specialized profilers are expressively more precise than those made by non-profilers (Snook, Cullen, Bennell, Taylor, & Gendreau, 2008.). Criminal profiling lacks basic features such as rationality, impartiality and consistency, and it verifies that every case is unique and must be seen as such. In every case, the investigator must follow the same procedure, collect the appropriate evidence, being objective in identifying the suspect and most importantly, an investigator should not solely rely only on his experience in solving a case. That is, every case involves different offenders, different victims and even different circumstances which make each and every case dissimilar from one another. For that reason, investigators using the Criminal Profiling technique to solve a case may easily lose their path and get influence by a sense of bias.

False convictions can drive the criminal justice to a whole collapse, because not only an innocent person is convicted, but the real offender gets away. Such failures are hidden behind large reasons like thoughtful misbehaviour or gross carelessness. This does not mean that the false conviction is happening only because of the investigators intentions. Even when this happens; even because of the police or lab technicians misconducts with evidence or suspects bias, they do not aim to surround an innocent person; they believe that they have the right person and that they are helping the criminal justice system; judge and the jury, to convict the offender. In order to understand how false convictions happen, it is requiring looking deep into the psychological factors that may drive the investigators to mistaken conclusions. Investigators presumably want to catch the right person, but they also want to secure a conviction. Most of the cases with false convictions involve rapes and murders, crimes so serious that the investigators were probably highly motivated to catch the perpetrator (Gross, 1993). This attitude of the investigators to catch the offender as soon as possible might be the result of media and community pressure as well, in order to not let down the public and lose their trust upon the criminal justice system. That very motivation can also lead investigators to become overly committed to a theory of the case.

When false convictions happen, people tend to blame either the judge or the jury who find innocent defendants guilty and let true criminal walk away, and have therefore, failed in the fact-finding mission. But in order for a jury even to start the hearing procedure of a case, investigators and attorneys must have first been persuaded of a defendant's guilt. Hence, this means that in every false conviction case, the investigators and attorneys had it and worked wrong, before the jury even hear the case. Even though several reasons possibly add to errors, an investigator biased toward confirming the guilt of an 'ideal' suspect is what makes him to miss clues pointing to other suspects and he is therefore less likely to notice that the specific suspect is 'on the wrong track'. These biases factors can lead to investigators to catch an innocent and then send him or her to trial (Elsworth, & O'Brien, 2006).

To conclude, even though investigators should remain unbiased in the whole procedure of collecting the evidence and later identifying a suspect, it is obvious that certain factors can and in some cases they influence the investigators to be bias; like it can happen to any other individual. However, it is the responsibility of the governments, the criminal justice systems, the public and the investigators to reduce- if cannot eliminate it- this phenomenon in order to avoid sending an innocent person to jail and let the actual criminals walk among us and next to our children. For example, if the media stops putting so much pressure to the police for 'catching the bad guy' then the investigators will follow each and every step more careful and with clear mind.