- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: CRC Press; 1 edition (December 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1420047515
- ISBN-13: 978-1420047516
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Criminal Investigative Failures 1st Edition
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This book is absolutely required reading for any professional in the law enforcement, emergency services, forensic medicine, or forensic psychology field who has to make complex decisions.
―Daniel Clark, Editor of International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, Vol. 11, No. 4, 2009
This topic is vitally important for not only understanding the causes and prevention of failures, but for understanding and measuring success.
―John Eck, University of Cincinnati, Department of Criminal Justice
The concepts and strategies outlined in this book are invaluable for helping to accomplish an investigator’s primary objective: ‘find the truth.’ For those of us who care deeply about investigative excellence and justice, particularly police investigators, this book is a ‘must read.’
―Doug A. LePard, Deputy Chief Commanding Investigation Division, Vancouver Police Department, Canada, From the Preface
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The first half of the book contains essays that are especially interesting, warning against making snap judgments, having tunnel vision, and assuming a person’s few good or bad traits make him globally good or bad. There are also some good lessons in applied statistics here, showing how investigators’ misunderstanding of probabilities leads them to the wrong suspects. There are sketches of cases that illustrate such errors. These include the case of the wrongly convicted David Milgaard, and the long languishing murder case of student Theresa Allore. There’s also a brief, but very cogent analysis of the Kennedy assassination, one that should once and for all put to rest all the most elaborate conspiracy theories.
While I heartily recommend this book to all general readers, it has a few drawbacks that prevent me from giving it a 5-star rating:
*Some of the chapters, especially some of those in the last third or so of the book, tend to be too abstract and repetitious. The chapters entitled “Bounded Rationality” and “Reducing Investigative Failures” are especially dense with abstruse statistics and vague generalities. If you are pressed for time, you might want to skip over these. Also, the rather spongy word “heuristics” is sprinkled too much throughout the book.
*The book is advising more in terms of Canadian and English police departments. Some of the suggestions made for improving investigative technique might be considered unconstitutional in the U.S. For example, one author suggests using fresh crime scene DNA not just to search for matches with previously logged DNA, but by itself to determine the perpetrator’s race, eye color, hair color, stature, etc. Another author suggests better ways of keeping tabs on all the DNA collected and kept in perpetuity in England from even minor offenders such as traffic violators. This author says that then such DNA registers can be more easily searched in order to find family connections with the DNA evidence left by major offenders. So perhaps a murderer might not already be in the DNA register, but his sister, who got a DUI ticket 10 years previously, would be. DNA analysis would pop up the family connection. These suggested practices are hot button issues and I believe are currently prohibited in the U.S.
*Often the authors of these essays are straining too hard to impute honest misunderstandings to the detectives on a case, whereas readers might simply see examples of gross indifference and misconduct. It’s too kind to say some of these investigators were suffering from “tunnel vision,” when in fact they were being careless and purposefully obstructionist.
*Reference citations are included frequently throughout the text, often appearing after every other sentence. They tend to break a reader’s flow. Still, they do provide plenty of opportunity for follow-up.
*This book was written in 2009, and events have proven even the gifted and conscientious Rossmo wrong in some instances, such as in the Jon-Benet Ramsey case he cites. Some of the essays also present slightly confusing contradictions to previous essays. For example, one essay almost advocates tunnel vision and snap judgments as a means of providing focus to an investigation.
*Some of the suggestions for improvement made here are too general and tease the reader. For instance, one essay says better techniques for interviewing witnesses are available and should be used. While I realize this book couldn’t present a whole course on police procedure, I would have liked at least a few specifics about a couple of these improved techniques.
Overall though, this is is a very worthwhile book. The advice these authors give can be applicable in many fields besides criminal investigations. Making medical diagnoses is one obvious example.
This book reinforces the idea that the rigorous application of scientific principles need not detract from the "art" of criminal investigation any more than adherence to scientific principles of medicine negates the artful diagnosis and treatment by a skilled physician - in fact, it improves it. This book is absolutely required reading for any professional in the law enforcement, emergency services, forensic medicine, or forensic psychology field who has to make complex decisions that affect people's lives in the pursuit of justice.
- Laurence Miller, PhD, International Journal of Emergency Mental Health