Helping to improve homicide investigations

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Homicide investigation is one of the most publicly visible yet least understood aspects of policing. 

Despite the significant resources deployed to investigate these high impact crimes, it's not clear why some homicides are particularly difficult to solve or what makes an investigation successful

In tackling these questions, Professor Fiona Brookman explored the culture, processes and practices that inform investigations and identified ways of improving investigations in terms of outcome and impact. This led on from her previous research on homicide already reproduced in the Murder Investigation Manual and used to help Senior Investigation Officers to better plan an effective investigative strategy based on case characteristics.

Professor Brookman conducted in-depth interviews with 30 homicide detectives and other senior officers across Britain and 38 in the United States.

Fiona analysed numerous case files and ‘shadowed’ detectives and other specialists (such as forensic scientists) during eight ‘live’ investigations for over 350 hours to observe decision-making in action. She also held many informal conversations with detectives and senior officers at homicide units, crime scenes, court buildings and forensic science facilities.

police lineThis research produced multiple findings, some as yet unpublished, concerning the culture and practice of investigation.

Subsequently, in collaboration with Professor Martin Innes of Cardiff University, Professor Brookman developed a framework for judging success, which is broader than the traditional measure of whether a suspect is charged and convicted. This includes: (i) outcome success, (ii) procedural success, (iii) community impact reduction success, and (iv) preventative success.

This four-fold measure of success has been included in the 2013 International Association of Chiefs of Police publication ‘10 Things Chiefs can do to Positively Impact Homicide Investigation Outcomes’ and was disseminated to Chiefs across all forces in the USA. Briefings by Professor Brookman to Police Chiefs in the USA have also led to proposals in at least one police force to introduce the role of Family Liaison Officer (FLO) to dedicated homicide squads

In 2012, Professor Brookman established the Criminal Investigation Research Network (CIRN). It now comprises over fifty members from around the world and aims to enhance international collaborations between researchers, practitioners and policy makers and to produce new insights into major crime investigation.

This case study originally appeared on page 19 of “Making the Case for Social Sciences 10: Wales”. The report launched the Academy of Social Sciences Publication and showcases Welsh Research, featuring expert views and over fourteen case studies. View the full report online.

Faculty of Business and Society

School of Humanities and Social Sciences 

The scientific study of crime asks important questions. Why do people commit crime? What does this do to society? What are the responses to crime and criminals? Which institutions deal with this and how? 

Criminology study at the University of South Wales combines key elements of law, psychology and sociology. From gang warfare, gun cultures and youth justice, to how crime is reported in the media, you can explore these important questions that affect every member of society.

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