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Detectives Role in Investigation Essay

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Updated: Jul 31st, 2020


Crime exists everywhere around the world. In the US, the effective work of local police departments caused an impressive decrease in crime rates in the 1990s and kept it on that level throughout the 2000s (Dempsey & Forst, 2016). In no small part, such progress was achieved due to the reformation of the investigation department. Nowadays, detectives and patrol officers work in tandem, rather than separately, to ensure that cases and crimes are investigated as swiftly and efficiently as possible. The detective plays an important role in the process of investigation. This paper is dedicated to studying the specifics of detective work.

The Detective Mystique

The position of a detective is, perhaps, the most advertised and known one. The image of the detective has been widely popularized by movies and literature. A detective is often portrayed as a sort of an independent anti-hero that works with the system but outside of the system. The rogue attitude, impressive intelligence, a troubled past, and dedication to justice despite the dangers and personal hardships is what makes this role so attractive.

As it often happens, the reality is much more prosaic. A detective spends most of his or her time interviewing the victims, witnesses, and filling out reports. They are often thrown at the cases that could not be solved through a primary investigation. Those cases typically remain unsolved due to a lack of witnesses, evidence, or suspects (Dempsey & Forst, 2016). In short, the work of a detective is not as exciting and glamorous as it is portrayed to be, and certainly not as effective as it is showed in the movies.

Responsibilities of the Detective. The Difference between a Detective and a Patrol Officer

Before the Rand Study conducted in 1975, the detectives were the ones who did most of the work solving crimes. The patrol officers had very little to do – their only task was to file the report and wait for the detective to pick up the case. As a result, precious time was being wasted. The Rand Study reflected on that and concluded that 93% of the work done by the detective department is done pointlessly and does not directly contribute to the result (Dempsey & Forst, 2016).

The patrol officer shares some of the duties that detectives used to have in the past. They are the ones to perform the primary investigation, which is conducted upon arriving at the scene of the crime. They have many tasks to perform. Among them is looking for possible suspects on the run, assessing the situation and requesting reinforcements if necessary, identifying and locating all the involved parties, securing the crime scene, and making sure nothing is disturbed, moved, or touched without permission. The actions of the officers are also recorded in the incident report (Dempsey & Forst, 2016). Statistics show that the majority of crimes are solved due to the efforts of the patrol officers during the preliminary investigations.

The detective division is charged with solving of the reported crimes. More often than not, those are crimes that could not be cleared based on the contents of the preliminary investigation conducted by the patrol officer. Detectives conduct a follow-up investigation, based on the incident report provided after the preliminary investigation is concluded. They often have to re-interview the victims and the witnesses, search the scene of the crime for any evidence that was overlooked, find and interview possible culprits, perform arrests, and give the required testimony in the court (Dempsey & Forst, 2016).

Investigative Tactics

The investigative tactics used by the detectives are separated into two groups – the retroactive and proactive tactics. The retroactive tactics have the purpose of solving the crime after it had been committed. It includes the primary and follow-up investigations, crime analysis, profiling, interviewing, and others. Often there is not enough evidence to identify a culprit, which is why the crime-clearing rate for serious offenses is less than 50%, and less than 20% for felonies (Dempsey & Forst, 2016). However, the best way to solve a crime is to prevent it from happening or actively stopping it. That is where proactive tactics come in.

Decoy operations involve operatives dressed up as civilians to blend into the surrounding environment while keeping a watchful eye out for the crime. They operate in crime-saturated areas and often pose as victims to attract a potential perpetrator and lure them out. This approach has proven to be very effective. The criminals do not expect an elderly man, a saloonkeeper or a prostitute to be an operative in disguise.

Stakeout operations are often employed when the police know an approximate location where the crime is going to be perpetrated. It involves breaking into the homes of the suspect, ambushes, and decoys with a follow-up crew to intercept the criminal. It involves hidden surveillance of a person. However, these operations are expensive in terms of material and human resources.

Sting operations involve operatives undercover pose as criminals, to lure out other criminals. This is a potentially dangerous operation because it involves a personal risk, in case the operative’s identity is compromised. Because of that, these operations are often implemented to catch thieves and robbers trying to get rid of the stolen goods (Dempsey & Forst, 2016).

Internet Article Summary

For this paper, I am going to summarize a case involving the murder of Bella Bond – a two-year-old child that was found dead by a random passerby, almost three months after her disappearance. The police launched a massive media campaign to identify the girl. Eventually, they succeeded, although it took them several months until somebody recognized the child.

The parents – Michael McCarthy and Rachel Bond, accused each other of the deed. The article does not provide a conclusion as to who is guilty of the crime and provides background information about both parents. Bond had a history of prostitution and drug-related offenses. However, she seemed like a doting mother, according to the pictures on her Facebook page. McCarthy was treated in a Boston hospital with a condition not related to the crime (Lavoye, 2015).

The method of investigation for this crime is clearly retroactive. The investigator had to implement the use of mass media and information technology just to identify the victim. The evidence seems lacking, and there are no witnesses to the crime. However, there are two possible suspects – the mother and the father of the girl. However, the fact that the article has no conclusion as to who is guilty means that investigation is still underway.


Despite the role of the detective is not as glamorous and flashy as it is represented in the books or movies, it is still an important part of the investigative effort that takes place after every crime.


Dempsey, J. S., & Forst, L. (2016). An Introduction to Policing, 8th Edition. MA, Boston: Cengage Learning.

Lavoye, D. (2015). .

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