A Semiotics of Detective Work

Martin Innes, University of Surrey

Despite considerable growth in the industry of police studies, which has done much to enhance our understandings of many of the social and technical aspects of policing, the work of police detectives and the practices employed in the investigation of crime remain comparatively neglected and under-researched. In this paper I want to explore the extent to which concepts derived from semiotics and blended with a more interpretative sociological epistemology can usefully be employed in understanding some key aspects of the work of crime investigators. In the opening section of the paper I outline the literatures on detectives and semiotics in order to identify their respective key themes. I then move on to consider some empirical data from two studies concerning the investigation of homicide to demonstrate how a number of semiotic concepts assist in the interpretation of the data. I conclude by mapping out some of the key implications of this semiotics of detective work and consider how the preliminary sketch laid out in this paper might be developed.

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Updated 05/20/2006