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Effective police investigative practices: an evidence-assessment of the research

Heather Prince (Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Cynthia Lum (Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Christopher S. Koper (Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 23 June 2021

Issue publication date: 31 August 2021

1382

Abstract

Purpose

Detective work is a mainstay of modern law enforcement, but its effectiveness has been much less evaluated than patrol work. To explore what is known about effective investigative practices and to identify evidence gaps, the authors assess the current state of empirical research on investigations.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors assess the empirical research about the effectiveness of criminal investigations and detective work in resolving cases and improving clearance rates.

Findings

The authors’ analysis of the literature produced 80 studies that focus on seven categories of investigations research, which include the impact that case and situational factors, demographic and neighborhood dynamics, organizational policies and practices, investigative effort, technology, patrol officers and community members have on case resolution. The authors’ assessment shows that evaluation research examining the effectiveness of various investigative activities is rare. However, the broader empirical literature indicates that a combination of organizational policies, investigative effort and certain technologies can be promising in improving investigative outcomes even in cases deemed less solvable.

Research limitations/implications

From an evidence-based perspective, this review emphasizes the need for greater transparency, evaluation and accountability of investigative activities given the resources and importance afforded to criminal investigations.

Originality/value

This review is currently the most up-to-date review of the state of the research on what is known about effective investigative practices.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This evidence-assessment was funded by a grant from Arnold Ventures.

Citation

Prince, H., Lum, C. and Koper, C.S. (2021), "Effective police investigative practices: an evidence-assessment of the research", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 44 No. 4, pp. 683-707. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-04-2021-0054

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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