Investigative Psychology – What Does It Mean And How Can It Help Law Enforcement Investigations? Evaluating the IP System and Detective Part VII

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

Over the past couple articles I have attempted to dissect the IP System and IP Detective to try and understand the entire IP System and how it assists law enforcement in their role to investigate major criminal acts. Further to establish specifically what the IP Detective’s role is when it comes to dealing with an allegation of child sexual abuse and how to determine if the allegation is genuine or false.

In uncovering the evidence and testimonies of a specific child sexual abuse act, the IP Detective must put specific IP System investigative steps into motion in order to understand if a criminal act has occurred.

The IP System investigative process requires an extensive amount of background research and questioning about the alleged sexual offender, to ascertain what type of sexual offender the IP Detective is dealing with, if the individual is a sexual offender or not.

Although in uncovering the autobiographical information about the alleged sexual offender, the IP Detective must analyze if the alleged sexual offender fits the profile of someone who would commit a sexual act upon a child.

Understanding the pedigree of an alleged sexual offender assists the IP Detective in putting together a schematic of what the sexual offender profile should look like. These creative and innovative schematics come from education, experience and training and provide a solid background for the IP Detective to eventually base their decision making upon.

Too often other law enforcement officials jump the gun and begin suggesting that since the alleged child victim made the sexual disclosure the incident is true. This mindset will affect the outcome of the investigation. The IP Detective must approach the case with a neutral, objective and fact-finding mentality. Failure to have this type of mindset may make a difference in the outcome of the investigation.

The IP Detective needs to understand that each child sexual abuse allegation is unique and therefore each allegation requires a creative, innovative and intelligent approach. A statement by any witness is simply just a statement. The information provided by the witness will be subjective and depending on the mindset of the witness may slant what they know. It doesn’t take a genius to know that there may be a motive why the witness is making the allegation.

Let us take a hypothetical situation where a 10 year old child does not care for the discipline she received by her father, over her not performing her chores. The next day, being upset with her father, she discloses to a friend that her father was inappropriate with her.

The well-meaning girlfriend goes home and tells her mother what her friend told her and the mother calls the police and reports the information her daughter disclosed to her.  Law enforcement officials send a police unit to go out and talk to the 10 year old alleged victim. Upon arrival he meets with the mother and the alleged victim. The law enforcement official then questions the alleged victim about how her father was inappropriate with her.

The alleged victim tells the law enforcement official that he is mistaken and her father has done nothing wrong. The law enforcement official tells the alleged victim that he does not believe her; why would her friend lie? The alleged victim attempts to explain that she was upset with her father because he disciplined her over her not performing her chores. 

The law enforcement official prepares a report and it is sent to the Special Assault Unit for further investigation. At this point the allegation which has been made by a friend of the 10 year old girl has now involved the police and Child Protective Services is to follow. It is the way things are done.

The first-responder could have resolved this case from getting out of control. It is important that law enforcement officials be thorough, competent and intelligent in how they deal with a sexual abuse allegation. The above story is just that a story. No one committed a crime and no one was sexually assaulted.

The question is, how could the above story been stopped before it began raging out of control? The answer is simple; the law enforcement official needs to be trained in the Investigative Psychology methods and techniques of investigating a potential major crime. Too much rests upon the law enforcement official understanding of why and how crimes are committed.
True crimes have a special ring to them. There are solid common sense tones to the information that the law enforcement official develops as he/she begins the investigation. The information has to be reasonable and logical in order to be reliable and credible.

Did the 10 year old girl tell the truth to the law enforcement official? If you can see it, why didn’t the law enforcement official see it? The reasons, he/she didn’t have the training, education and experience necessary to make an intelligent and competent decision.

In my past articles I have discussed how the IP System is about decision making at specific points in the investigation. The make believe story I invented had the same concerns at each point of the investigation. These points should have made the law enforcement official question if there was a motive for the allegation(s) and did he/she overlook that sometimes people say things which aren’t true.

The “investigative inferences” which this law enforcement official made, happens too often in criminal investigations. The first responder needs to gather information other than the initial disclosure. The “investigative inferences” must examine information about the alleged sexual offender. Information such as who is this father who may have sexually assaulted his 10 year old daughter?

Other areas of interest about the father, which should be considered, are: Is there a history of sexual misconduct on the part of the father; is there a history of drug or alcohol addiction; is there mental or psychological problems; what is his criminal history, if any; and so forth.  The first responder has the opportunity to ask the right questions the first time. The mother of the alleged victim is present and would have a multitude of information to obtain.

Once the case is forwarded to the Special Assault Unit and the IP Detective has an opportunity to review what the first responder obtained, the IP Detective will have to make some very important decisions, such as does he/she believe a crime was committed?  The competence and intelligence of the IP Detective is very important at the beginning of the follow-up investigation.

Some of the information the first-responder attempted to obtain, will now be the responsibility of the IP Detective. The strategies, methods and techniques the IP Detective utilizes will make a difference in the outcome of the alleged sexual assault investigation.

The IP System requires the IP Detective to utilize psychological procedures; policies and protocols to minimize the common errors which occur when the investigative strategies are antiquated and lacking in the use of new evidence technology and medical evidence gathering. There are so many investigative steps which can be taken by the IP Detective to ascertain the truth.

The role of the first-responder and the IP Detective are vital to obtaining any physical, biological and direct evidence. If evidence of any kind is gathered which provides a direction in the case, can assist the investigators in determining if a crime did or did not occur. The complexity of information management and inference derivation points to the need to understand investigative decision-making and how it can be supported. Did the first-responder follow this hypothesis? Clearly, it appears the law enforcement official was not thorough and competent and his/her decision making was lacking.

Tomorrow, I will continue to evaluate and examine the issues of utilizing the IP System and understanding the roles of an IP Detective. Books, articles, journals, research and so much more has been written about Investigative Psychology. Understand that until recently, most law enforcement agencies had not heard of IP, or had there been any sophisticated training to educate the law enforcement officials.

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