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Police Psychologist’s Role in Homicide Investigation Essay

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Updated: Jan 16th, 2021


The role of a police psychologist is critical in any modern police force. This is because a modern police force is faced with a myriad of issues. The role of police psychologists in a modern police force focuses on three areas. Firstly, police psychologists liaise with different departments and assist in crime investigation. Some of these divisions include homicide investigation departments (Corey & Honig, 2008).

Also, police psychologists provide expertise on the adoption of modern organizational practices in police divisions. Finally, police psychologists are expected to conduct evaluations on candidates joining the force in addition to appraising officers seeking promotion (Dantkzer, 2011).

The following case study involves the murder of a town mayor. The mayor had previously served as the chief of department in the town’s police force. As the police psychologist involved in the case, there are several roles that I would play during the investigation. These roles include providing the investigation team with relevant information based on my expertise. Similarly, during the investigation, a psychological autopsy would be conducted. As a police psychologist, I would ensure that all relevant information is placed in the final report submitted to the investigations team. I would also highlight the importance of the information contained in the report.

Role of the police psychologist in the homicide investigation

Some of the roles that I would play as the police psychologist involved in the above investigation include conducting an analysis of the pre-crime scene behavior. Pre-crime scene behavior gives insight into the character and level of organization of the perpetrator (Corey & Honig, 2008). In this particular homicide case, the victim had a single gunshot wound to his head..

Similarly, I would analyze the post-scene crime behavior. Post scene crime behavior relates to the status of the victim after the crime is committed. This includes the condition in which the victim’s body was found that is, whether the victim was naked, partially or fully covered. Additionally, the above situation gives insight into other things including any existent relationship between the offender and the victim. Some attributes of sadistic killers (for example, chopping off organs of the victims) could be part of the perpetrator’s signature move where such information is vital in the investigation. (Davis, n.d., para. 8).

In the above case, the investigator cannot rule out suicide. Therefore, as the police psychologist involved I would advocate for the integration of other investigative tools including a psychological autopsy. I would also implore on the lead investigator to explore other options including suicide, as a lead in the investigation. It is important that any information solicited from the mayor’s family members is done so in the recommended manner. This includes ensuring that family members are aware of their rights while giving such information. Similarly, a safe environment should be provided where family members can give without any duress.

Purpose and Use of Psychological autopsy

Psychological autopsy refers to an assessment of the mental state of the victim before the crime (Vasuneva, 2010). It involves a reconstruction of the victim’s thoughts and actions before the crime. There are various sources of information used for reconstruction. These sources include conducting face- to- face interviews with friends and family members. Also, police psychologists and other investigators interview people in contact with the victim before the crime. Other sources of the information include personal documents, medical and police reports (Vasuneva, 2010).

There are several uses of psychological autopsy. Psychological autopsies are mainly used in suicide cases. This helps the investigators to establish the cause of suicide (Vasuneva, 2010). In the above case, a psychological autopsy is useful as it provides insight into whether the case is to be treated as homicide or suicide. Psychological autopsy provides information about the personality of the victim. In the above case, the victim has served in various public offices including as a chief of a police department.

Also, until his demise, the victim was serving as the city’s mayor. Information on the victim’s personality is useful in the above case. Such information helps determine whether there could be a link between the victim’s personality and the crime. It also provides insight into the type of personal relationships that the victim had with relatives and colleagues.

Additionally, psychological autopsy provides a basis for establishing the intention or motive of the crime (Vasuneva, 2010). In the case above, the victim was a high profile figure in the community. Therefore, he was entrusted with making critical decisions which affect the lives of people in the town. In this case, a psychological autopsy would provide insight into some of the critical decisions that the victim made prior to the crime.

Furthermore, it provides information on some of the pending decisions involving the victim. Also, there is presence of another high profile figure seen with the victim before the crime. Therefore, while analyzing the impact of the victim’s decisions, the investigations would include the above mentioned figure. This creates basis for analyzing the motive including probable motives of the above mentioned high profile figure.

Steps in conducting a psychological autopsy

Identifying information about the victim

In this particular case, information about the victim is available from the council office. As the police psychologist assigned to the case, I would solicit for basic information about the victim. This information includes the name and age of the victim. Other relevant information includes address, marital status and religious practice of the victim. The above information forms the basis of the psychological autopsy as the psychologist familiarizes himself with the victim.

Details of the death

The second step involves analyzing the details surrounding the death of the victim. Some of the details that I would examine in the above case include the scene of murder. This refers to the place where the victim’s body was found. I would also look into other details including the person who reported the murder to the police. Similarly, I would analyze the weapon used for the murder if it was found at the scene of crime.

If the weapon is not at the scene, I would solicit for this information from the report of the weapons experts involved in the investigation. This information is useful as it guides the psychologist in unraveling other aspects pertaining to the investigation including motive. Also, as the police psychologist, I would look into the state of the victim’s body. This helps me establish whether the victim was tortured. I would also analyze type of instruments that were used to torture the victim.

Brief outline of the victim’s history

This is an analysis of the victim’s relationships with family members and his daily routine. In the above case, it is important that the police psychologist approaches this issue with a lot of caution. Information about the mayor’s marriage life can be gotten through interviewing close friends. Also, as the police psychologist, I would interview his parents who are in a position to give information regarding the mayor’s relationships. These relationships include those with his siblings and also with his wife if he was married.

Also, I would look into any legal cases involving family members. They include divorce proceedings that the mayor was involved in prior to his death. This would help me to analyze the effect of such cases on the relationship between the victim and plaintiff or defendant. I would also analyze the progress of the cases in which the mayor was involved.

Description of personality or lifestyle of the victim

There are varied sources of information on the personality and lifestyle of the victim. As the regards the lifestyle of the mayor in the above case, I would observe his office and home. This would give me a vivid picture of the victim’s lifestyle. Also, I would engage his friends including close business associates. This is also an important source of information about the mayor’s lifestyle. Close business partners could provide insight into the mayor’s business deals.

Information about the mayor’s personality can be obtained from current and former colleagues. Having served as chief in my department, I would engage some of colleagues on the mayor’s personality. Due to the close relationship that he had with most of my colleagues, I would be keen on comments that they make regarding the mayor. Similarly, I can request one of my colleagues to share information regarding the mayor’s behavior as head of the department. Some of the issues I would address include his leadership style which relates to elements such as mode of decision making.

Change in Victim before death

As the police psychologist assigned to this case, I would look into aspects related to the victim’s lifestyle and routine. Changes in the victim’s lifestyle would reflect in change in hobbies and habits. Also, I would look into change in the victim’s routine including eating and sleeping patterns. This information is critical to the investigation where it change in routine would indicate increased stress level in the victim. This information is essential and would be correlated to motives that are established during the investigation.

Psychological Issues affecting police officers and their families

From the report, there are several issues that would affect police officers especially in my department who have previously worked with the mayor. In the process of the investigation, motives might be established which involve police officers. Therefore, police officers may feel uncomfortable being interrogated for the murder. It is my duty as the police psychologist assigned to this case to ensure that needs and emotions of police officers involved are taken into account. This involves ensuring that a subtle mode of engagement between the officer and investigator is established.

Also, as the psychologist responsible for the department, I would remain vigilant in order to observe any change in behavior among officers. Sudden deaths are associated with increased cases of depression among close family members and friends. I would also encourage officers to share on their relationship with the deceased.

Some other issues that I would address as the police psychologist in the department include instituting educational programs. These programs would be geared towards equipping officers with information about some of the psychological risks that they are exposed to. These psychological risks include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I would also introduce family therapy sessions. This gives would give me a chance as a psychologist to interact with the officer’s families. It would also give me an insight into the officers’ behavior which could be influenced by family- related matters.

References List

Corey, D. M., & Honig, A. L. (2008). Police Psychology in the 21st Century. Web.

Dantzker, M. L. (2011). Psychological pre-employment screening for police candidates: Seeking consistency if not standardization. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42, 276 –283.

Davis, D. A. (n.d.). The Emergence of Psychologists and Behavioral Scientists as Human Factors and Performance Consultants to Law Enforcement. Web.

Vasuneva M. C. R. (2010). Psychological Autopsy – A Review. Al Ameen Journal of Medicine, 3(3), 177-181.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Police Psychologist's Role in Homicide Investigation." January 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/police-psychologists-role-in-homicide-investigation/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Police Psychologist's Role in Homicide Investigation'. 16 January.

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