From Austin Peay University, A Course on Criminal Investigations
AN OVERVIEW OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be true”
It can be argued that the field of criminal investigation should be called applied criminology. The only better name would be criminal psychology, but psychologists call that forensic psychology. It can’t be called investigative science because investigative journalism has a grip on that label, and it can’t be called detective science because that refers to the “true” crime genre of fiction writing. Police science is too broad a term, as are the terms crime science or criminal science, predecessors of the field of criminal justice. There is a science called clinical criminology, but it is practiced mostly in Israel as the study of insanity. There is an unfortunate tendency in England, Australia, and Canada to attach applied criminology to what is called profiling, but those university programs are more applied social science curricula than anything else. It is only criminology, as an interdisciplinary field of study that has always incorporated anthropology, biology, psychology, and sociology, and offers hope for professionalizing criminal investigation. Criminology and criminal investigation both got their start around 1891 (Gross 1924).
It is probably true what police detectives say, that criminal investigation cannot be taught; it must be learned thru years of practice (Axelrod & Antinozzi 2003). This makes it more of an art than a science, but composed of both (Morn 2000). It is also more than a justification for the so-called “detective mystique.” The 12% of police officers in America who hold detective rank (and all detectives hold rank, most at least Sergeant; in some departments, all detectives are Sergeants), are powerful, respected, and smart for some good reasons. For one thing, they’re extremely good at eliciting confessions, which are the equivalent of the holy grail in law enforcement. American police detectives have an average 60% success rate in eliciting confessions, which far surpasses any other country in the world. Their clearance rate is not all that good, only 20% of all crimes are solved (70% for homicide), but given the tremendous amount of crime in America, the fact that it’s the easiest country in the world to be a criminal in, and their small numbers compared to workload, it’s amazing they accomplish what they do.
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