Policing the Past: Forensic Evidence and the Problem of Who Did What to Whom in Cold Case Reviews

Martin Innes, University of Surrey
Alan Clarke, University of Surrey

Cold Case Reviews are increasingly being used by police to periodically explore whether any new investigative opportunities have arisen in respect of long-term unsolved major crime investigations. This paper draws on Goffman's (1974) concept of Oframing and Hacking's (1996) concept of Oretroactivity to investigate the work performed by police in reviewing unsolved cases. Focusing upon the question of how detectives come to feel that they know how a past crime event happened, the paper draws upon qualitative analysis of observational, interview and documentary data from a sample of 20 cold case reviews. It is argued that forensic evidence is frequently used by detectives to reinterpret and reframe the police's understanding of who did what to whom and why.

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Updated 05/20/2006