Beyond Offender Profiling: An Investigative Psychology Framework for Psychological Contributions to Police Investigations

David Canter, University of Liverpool

The usual model that is assumed for the contribution of psychological or related behavioural science knowedge to a police investigation is that an expert is brought from outside into the enquiry, to offer advice directly to the investigation. The one to one contact between the 'expert' and the 'detective', so beloved of crime fiction, has found its way into police practice in the use of 'profilkers' all over the world. The present paper argues that a more productibe model for such contributions is one in which they are integrated into the processes police have available for conducting investigations. That is the provision of ongoing training to the police and support systems, rather than 'expert opinions' offered in a 'one-off' fashion on a case-by-case basis. This model draws attention to the need for a fully-fledged scientific discipline that will generate processes and theories for contributing to police investigations that have their roots firmly within empirical, scientific procedures. A framework for this 'Investigative Psychology' (I.P.) is presented. Examples of recent empirical studies illustrating the specific contributions that I.P,. is making to the police investigative process are summarized. These cover both rare and serious crimes suich as Serial Killing and more widespread crimes such as arson and burglary.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006