Week 2 Lecture

The History of Criminal Investigation

History is exceedingly important because without knowing where we have been, how are we to appreciate where we are today and predict where we will be in the future?

The emergence of the Industrial Revolution in England during the early 1800s brought with it urban problems, most notably that of crime. The London Metropolitan Police Department was established in 1829 as a response to this outbreak of criminal activity. The position of the detective was soon formed, which won the public’s favor after the poor investigative tactics of the informer, thief-taker, and thief-maker that preceded it.

The London Metropolitan Police Department

  • The Industrial Revolution hit England in the 1800s, creating urban problems like sanitation, poverty, and, most importantly, crime. In response to this problem, the London Metropolitan Police Department was established in 1829.
  • Within the police department, the role of the detective was formed. Public resistance was substantial due to the problems inherent in the three tactics with which the public was familiar: informants, thief-takers, and thief-makers. By using detectives for only the most serious crimes, making them salaried, and making detectives reactive to crime, the role of the detective was well supported and successful.

The Evolution of the Investigative Task: American Developments

  • Early in America’s history, policing was a local government matter, due to America’s distrust of a national police force. The police therefore were informal and consisted mainly of volunteers.

America’s investigative developments can be categorized into three eras of policing:

The Political Era

In the political era, politicians controlled the police. Information was collected through clandestine activities, where investigators were familiar with criminals, even though new identification systems were developing like photography and Bertillonage. Policing continued to grow during this time with the development of private, state, and federal investigative agencies.

The First American Police Departments and Detectives

In the mid-1800s, labor protests, riots, and the Industrial Revolution created the need for a police force. Because politicians controlled policing at this time, often leading to corruptive practices, it has been named the political era of policing (Kelling and Moore, 1988).

“Curbside justice” with a baton was the favored alternative to arrest because it was easier and more effective.

Detectives were familiar with criminals (many of them were even reformed criminals). They often wore disguises, even in court, because of the sensitive nature of their work.

New techniques for identification and investigation were developed at this time.

  • Photography led to the creation of the “rogues gallery” and wanted posters. However, criminals could alter their appearances and a photograph of the wanted person needed to be available in order for photography to be useful.

  • The idea of using body measurements as a form of identification was created by Alphonse Bertillon. The Bertillon Method was an improvement over photography in that it identified a person through 11 measurements of their body. Though initially successful, this invention was too impractical and error prone.

  • A dragnet roundup of suspects was a popular investigative tactic used at the time where the police would find and arrest all suspicious persons and hold them until they were determined innocent.

  • The “third degree” was another investigative tactic developed as a method of interrogation that often included prolonged beatings.

Sheriff, State Police, U.S. Marshall, and the Bureau of Investigation

  • The eastern U.S. developed police departments in each of its large cities.
  • The western U.S. employed the U.S. Marshals and sheriffs as policing powers (Ball, 1978).
  • State agencies were created due to the rise of automobiles, as well as the corruption and ineffectiveness of municipal police agencies.
  • The Bureau of Investigation (later known as the FBI) was created in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt to conduct counterintelligence and anti-radical investigations.

Private Detectives

Private detectives were often used in criminal investigations in the mid-1800s and early 1900s.

  • Pinkerton’s Private Detective Agency was the most prominent private detective agency. They often mingled in the criminal world to learn of illegal plans.
  • The Justice Department often hired Pinkerton’s agency because a private detective agency could operate without worrying about jurisdictional boundaries.
  • Pinkerton also developed a system of internal communication, record keeping, and files on criminals, which was adopted by police departments.

The Reform Era

The reform era, however, took shape in the 1900s when scientific advancements made detectives no longer dependent on familiarity with criminals and politicians to obtain information. Police professionalism began to develop, separating the police from the public. This strategy, however, began to deteriorate as the riots and crime rates increased in the 1960s.

This era of policing followed the political era in the early 1900s and ended in the 1960s (Kelling and Moore, 1988).

  • Police professionalism was created to separate the police from corrupt politicians.
  • Police presented themselves as experts, who were effective and efficient at controlling crime.
  • Detectives became the ultimate professionals, a view perpetuated by the media and pop culture.
  • Detectives did not need to be familiar with criminals anymore to obtain information about their dealings. Instead, detectives could obtain information from scientific advancements in this policing era.

Fingerprint identification was led by the FBI, redefining the way investigators can identify perpetrators. This identification technique surpassed the photography and Bertillonage of the previous era.

The Role of Evidence in Criminal Investigations

Evidence is a primary tool of investigators to determine that a crime occurred and a particular person committed it. Evidence, however, is not neat. Not all evidence is admissible in court. Some evidence might even point to a defendant’s innocence. The ambiguity associated with evidence has led the legal system to adopt varying levels, or standards, of proof. Whether the police want to arrest a suspect with probable cause, or the prosecution wants to prove that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, all decisions and actions by the legal system must first obtain proof. The evidence used to obtain proof varies as does the evidence’s function, but one thing holds constant: evidence is essential to criminal investigations.

The Basics of Criminal Evidence

Criminal evidence is defined as any crime-related evidence on which an investigator can:
  • Establish proof that a particular crime was committed.
  • Establish proof that a particular person committed that crime.

Evidence can either be judicial or extrajudicial in nature.
  • Judicial evidence, or admissible evidence, is any evidence that can be submitted in court proceedings because it meets the rules of evidence.
  • Extrajudicial evidence, or inadmissible evidence, is any evidence that cannot be submitted in court proceedings but can be used to help investigators make decisions during the investigative process.

It is also important to understand the difference between exculpatory evidence and inculpatory evidence.
  • Exculpatory evidence is any evidence that excludes or eliminates someone from consideration as the perpetrator of a crime.
  • Inculpatory evidence is any evidence that includes or incriminates a person as the perpetrator of a crime.
  • Sometimes one suspect can have both exculpatory and inculpatory evidence associated with him/her. Both forms of evidence must be presented to the defense attorney as the case goes to trial.

Standards of Proof

Proof, evidence used to eliminate uncertainty and doubt, has varying levels of which are required in the legal system depending on the decision or action desired.

  • Probable cause is relevant when the police desire to make an arrest or conduct a search. Probable cause exists when it is more likely than not that a particular circumstance exists.
  • Beyond a reasonable doubt is relevant when the prosecution works to obtain a conviction. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt eliminates any doubt that might be had about a defendant’s guilt; any remaining doubt is not meaningful or significant.
  • Reasonable suspicion is relevant when the police intend to conduct a stop and frisk. Reasonable suspicion exists when there is reason to believe that a circumstance exists.
  • Preponderance of evidence is relevant only in civil cases.

Testimonial evidence is evidence presented in court, by witnesses who are speaking under oath.

There are two types of witnesses:

  • Lay witnesses provide testimony limited to personally observed facts.
  • Expert witnesses possess special knowledge about a fact of the case that needs special examination.The scientific technique used by an expert witness needs to have general acceptance in its field (Frye standard).

The Frye standard was replaced with the Daubert standard that states that the trial judge must determine whether the evidence used is relevant and reliable.

Hearsay is a type of testimonial evidence that consists of repeating information that another person said. Hearsay is largely inadmissible in court because it is unreliable. The person who originally said those words was not under oath and cannot be cross-examined (Waltz, 1997).

There are exceptions:

  • Previously recorded testimony under oath
  • Dying declarations
  • Defendant’s previous admission and confession
  • Statements that relate to a witness's frame of mind, if it is in question
  • Excited utterances or spontaneous declarations
  • Statements regarding one’s physical condition

The Meaning and Nature of Probable Cause

- If probable cause does not exist, any search is illegal, all evidence collected is inadmissible, and any arrest is invalid.

- Probable cause exists when a reasonable person has a reasonable belief that a crime has been, or is being, committed.

Types of Evidence

Evidence can either be direct or indirect, and evidence can either be testimonial, real, demonstrative, or documentary.

  • Direct evidence is crime-related information that immediately demonstrates a fact without the need for inference.
  • Indirect evidence, or circumstantial evidence, is crime-related information that requires inference and probability to draw a conclusion.

The difference between direct and indirect is not in the likelihood of the evidence being true, but in the need for inference.

There are eight types of circumstantial evidence:

  1. An individual’s physical ability to commit a crime
  2. An alibi
  3. The method in which the crime was committed (MO)
  4. A motive
  5. Attempts to evade police
  6. Possession of fruits of the crime
  7. The existence of prior threats or similar behavior by the suspect
  8. Character witnesses

Overview of Hearsay Rule

Overview of the Hearsay Rule

Types of Evidence continued

Real evidence, also called physical, scientific, or forensic evidence, is any evidence that is tangible and is created as a direct result of the crime being committed.

Demonstrative evidence is any tangible evidence related to the crime and/or the perpetrator that is created indirectly from the crime.

Documentary evidence is any evidence that is in document form or documents some issue of relevance to the crime.

The Functions of Evidence

Evidence can serve an array of functions in establishing proof. Evidence can be corpus delicti evidence, corroborative evidence, cumulative evidence, associative evidence, identification evidence, or behavioral evidence.

  • Corpus delicti evidence is evidence that establishes the occurrence of a crime.
  • Corroborative evidence is evidence that supplements and strengthens already existing information.
  • Cumulative evidence is evidence that supplements but does not necessarily strengthen already existing information.
  • Associative evidence is evidence that provides links between crimes, crime scenes, victims, suspects, and tools.
  • Identification evidence is evidence that identifies a perpetrator.
  • Behavioral evidence is evidence that provides a basis for identifying the type of person who might be responsible for the crime.

References and Supplemental Resources