Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Centre of Applied Research Technology

The use of rapid identification information at the crime scene; similarities and differences between English and Dutch CSIs

Article

This study replicates previous research that investigated the influence of rapid identification information on the interpretation of a crime scene conducted with English crime scene investigators (CSIs). Given the special circumstances under which CSIs in one country operate, the present study investigates the robustness and generalisability of the previous findings by studying whether identical decision-making phenomena are found in a replication study within a different police environment. Dutch CSIs (N = 65) participated in the same study and results are compared with the English findings. The utility of the replication study is reflected in both the revealed robustness and differences in the findings. First, the results demonstrate the robustness of the previous finding that ID information influenced the interpretation of the crime scene, even more when this information was provided after CSIs had constructed a provisional scenario. Secondly, this study revealed differences in decision-making: English CSIs used ID information to make efficient decisions by prioritising traces with direct progression opportunities for the case and disregarding those without direct opportunities, which led to a form of tunnel vision, namely the ignorance of the involvement of a second offender. Dutch CSIs showed to be less prone to bias towards traces that produced database matches.Dutch CSIs seemed to be more focused on the relation of the trace with the crime, while English CSIs are more focused on the database match.Consequently, important information was overlooked. We question whether the emphasis on efficiency in England goes at the expense of the quality of an investigation.

In the near future, new technologies will make it possible for crime scene investigators (CSIs) to reconstruct a crime based on rapid identification information that will be received during the crime scene investigation itself (Kurpershoek 2009, Butler 2015, Jovanovich et al. 2015. Traces found at the crime scene can be analysed with mobile identification technology and compared with a database in a short amount of time. These technologies will help making fast decisions and could contribute to the rapid development of lines of inquiry as identification (ID) information can quickly lead to suspects. A previous study of De Gruijter et al. 2017 investigating the use of ID information at the crime scene with English CSIs has shown that ID information influenced the interpretation of the crime scene, even more when this information was provided after CSIs had constructed a provisional scenario (i.e. narratives that explain the observed traces at the crime scene). CSIs who received ID information constructed different scenarios compared to CSIs who did not receive this ID information (De Gruijter et al. 2017. Furthermore, when efficiency and effectiveness are defined as linking a suspect to the crime scene by obtaining an identification on traces, this study demonstrated that English CSIs used ID information to make efficient decisions by prioritising traces with an identification and thus direct progression for the case and disregarding those without immediate progression. This may contribute to rapid case processing, but selective attention and premature closure (i.e. focusing on only those traces with direct investigative opportunities) may also lead to bias in the investigation as decisions are reached before all available alternatives have been considered (Nickerson 1998, Findley and Scoot 2006) Also, the utility of traces as intelligence is neglected by maintaining this strategy (Ribaux et al, Ribaux and Talbot Wright 2014).

Reference de Gruijter, M., & de Poot, C. J. (2019). The use of rapid identification information at the crime scene; similarities and differences between English and Dutch CSIs. Policing and Society, 29(7), 848-868. https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2018.1434177
Published by  Centre for Applied Research Technology 1 January 2019

Publication date

Jan 2019

Author(s)

Madeleine de Gruijter