Managing Criminal Investigations

  • Goal – Understanding a:
    • Management system for continuing investigations that establishes management control over: assigning, coordinating, directing, monitoring and evaluating the overall investigative effort.
      • Introduction
  • In the past:
    • Investigations were assigned to the investigator who was on duty at the time of assignment.  
    • The investigator’s caseload was not an issue nor was the priority of the case. 
      • The investigator screened the initial investigation and determined whether the case was worth serious pursuit
  • Managers were only vaguely kept informed concerning the progress of the case. 
  • Lack of managerial control – shortcomings
    - inequitable caseloads
    - improper assignment of cases
    - incorrect priority decisions
    - lateness of investigator response
    - lack of investigative continuity 
  • The establishment of a management system is intended to increase the number of case investigations of serious crimes that are cleared by prosecutable arrests of criminals responsible

§        Establishing Administrative Controls

  • Master Case File must be established.
  • Case file controlled by the same case number as originally assigned. 
  • The case file should contain a complete record of the status of the case.

§        The case file should include:

  • An log sheet to record inclusions in the file
  • A copy of the initial investigation report
  • An investigative plan
  • Lab reports
  • Investigator’s checklist
  • Calendar of review dates on case progress
  • Supplemental investigation reports
  • Photographs

§        Case Status Log

  • Develop & maintain a case status log based upon the following definitions:
  • Cleared:
    • An arrest has been made and arrestee(s) have been charged with the commission of the offense in question and turned over to the court for prosecution.
  • Exceptional Clearance:
    • The identity and the address or exact location of the offender is known and
    • sufficient evidence exists to make an arrest and charge the offender
    • However, a reason outside the agency’s control does not allow the agency to arrest and charge the suspect
      • An example of an exceptional clearance is when the suspect is known but has died or is being charged in another jurisdiction
  • Open:
    • An ongoing investigation.  If the investigation has exhausted all leads, yet the possibility remains that new facts may come to light given ongoing inquiry, the case shall remain open.
  • Unfounded: 
    • The offense did not occur.
  • Inactive:
    • When all potentially fruitful leads have been exhausted an investigation may be classified as inactive.  An investigation may be reactivated and assigned to an investigator’s active caseload if sufficient new leads are developed.

§        Case Assignment

  • Develop a procedure for case assignment based upon equitable caseloads and investigator skills
  • Establish a case assignment record to be completed by the investigation supervisor 
  • The case assignment record should contain the following information:
    • date case assigned
    • case number
    • review decision dates
    • case closing date
    • reason for closure
    • reason for continuation
  • Develop a means for assigning cases based on their seriousness and in accordance with priorities based on the presence of solvability factors

§        Solvability Factors

  • suspect in custody                       
  • suspect named or known
  • unique suspect identifiers
  • vehicle in custody
  • unique vehicle identifiers
  • reviewer discretion
  • general suspect description
  • unique method of operation or crime pattern
  • significant physical evidence
  • traceable stolen property
  • witnesses

§        Progress and Performance

  • Implement mechanisms for documenting progress of case investigations and individual investigator performance:
    • Investigator’s daily and monthly workload report-provides basic information on:
      • cases assigned, dispositions of cases, and arrest information
      • There is also a separate accounting for exceptional clearances
  • Unit monthly workload report-provides the same basic information for the entire investigative unit:
    • Monthly arrest/clearance performance, individual investigators:
      • provides information on individual performance for each member of the unit
    • Unit arrest performance, prosecutor acceptance:
      • provides information on prosecutor acceptance of arrests
      • Similar information for each investigator could be revealing of individual performance
      • Summary

·          Law enforcement administrators have increasingly recognized the necessity for establishing a management system for the investigative process.

·           Although no system is a panacea, having no system at all is a disaster

  • Managing the continuing investigation process will result in the assignment of cases more equitably and more effectively
  • It will improve the quality of case investigation and preparation and provide monitoring of investigation progress
  • Additionally, it provides management a means of ensuring investigator accountability
      • Case Screening
      • Goal:
  • The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize the participant with a basic understanding of the first step to managing criminal investigations:
      • Screening cases to systematically separate “unsolvable” cases from those offering a reasonable potential for successful closure through investigation
      • Introduction
  • Traditionally, law enforcement agencies have conducted some form of investigation on almost every reported crime, despite the fact that many crimes will not be solved by such investigative effort.
  • Case screening is a management tool that facilitates making a decision concerning the continuation of an investigation based upon the existence of sufficient solvability factors obtained at the initial investigation
  • Solvability factors are those elements of information regarding a crime which:
  • based upon past experience have proven to be important in determining the probability of a successful conclusion to the investigation
  • Develop a process for screening out predictably “unsolvable” cases by reviewing solvability factors
  • Identity solvability factors
  • Some factors commonly used will be discussed, however this is not at all inclusive list
  • Each agency should evaluate and establish their own factors
  • Suspect information:
  • Suspect named
  • Suspect description
  • Suspect location
  • Can suspect be identified
  • Vehicle Information
  • Vehicle description
  • Vehicle license number
  • Vehicle occupant identification
  • Was identifiable or traceable property taken?
  • Were there witnesses to the incident?
  • Was there physical evidence present?
  • Fingerprints?
  • DNA?
  • Footprints, tire tracks?
  • Is there a recognizable crime pattern involving several crimes?
  • Assigning a numerical value to solvability factors:
  • A predetermined value is attached to each solvability factor and the sum of those values serve as the screening decision criteria
  • The system requires an analysis of each solvability factor to determine the values that should be attached to the various levels of evidence supporting the presence of a particular solvability factor
  • Assigning a point value will enable a more precise match of investigation effort to solvability factors
  • Cases can be further rated as high solvability, medium, low and very low
  • The process should require that cases identified as not solvable because of insufficient success criteria be inactivated
  • The highest value is assigned to those factors that have the greatest potential for solving the crime
  • Named suspect has proven to be the strongest solvability factor
  • Vehicle identification that leads to a suspect
  • Lesser values are assigned to factors that have the potential to develop further information with continued investigation
  • The role of the Screener:
  • The case screener is to ensure that screening criteria is consistently applied to all cases and that all available information is utilized in conjunction with the solvability factors
  • Solvability factors alone are not the sole criteria for determining if the case will be assigned for further investigation.  Other critical factors should be considered
  • Gravity of the offense
  • Felony or misdemeanor; violent crime vs. property crime
  • Urgency of the offense or community involvement
  • Probability of solution
  • Management judgment

§       Informing the Victim

  • The victim of every crime expects the law enforcement agency to continue investigating the offense until there is a successful conclusion, namely a suspect is arrested
  • In reality, there are many cases that will never be solved despite investigative efforts.  The victims should be advised of the decision to suspend the case and advised the reason, lack of workable information
  • Victims should be informed that should additional information be developed the case may be reactivated
  • There are two generally accepted methods of informing the victims:
    • The initial responding officer can advise the victim that the initial investigation did not produce sufficient evidence to justify further investigation
    • The victim can be informed by letter once the investigation report has been reviewed by the case screener and the investigation supervisor

§       Summary

  • Case screening is designed to:
    • Provide sufficient information about a case at the earliest possible time in the investigative process
    • Allow a decision to be made with respect to the desirability of continuing to commit investigative resources in the case

§       Crime Trend Analysis

§        Capturing Information

  • Questions?
    • What are you doing now to capture the crime trends in your area?
    • What types of crimes do you track?
    • How do you get the information necessary to track crimes?
    • Who is responsible for maintaining any crime analysis being done?
    • Where is this information kept?
    • Is it visual? Handwork or computer?
    • Who do you share this information with in your area?
    • Are your counterparts in the next areas tracking crimes?
    • How do you share crime information with them?
    • What reports do you routinely make to upper management?
    • If you observe a pattern of crimes, what do you do with this knowledge?
    • Who do you have available to proactively prevent crime or catch criminals based on analysis.

·        Factors to Consider

  • Type of crime
  • Location
  • Victims
  • Time of day
  • Property stolen
  • Clothing
  • Masks
  • How many involved
  • Violence present
  • Type of violence
  • Weapons used
  • Statements made
  • Familiar with area
  • Vehicles used
  • ____________?
  • ____________?

·       Types of Crimes

  • What categories of crime can be analyzed with success?
    • Property crimes
    • Robberies
    • Vehicle thefts
    • Some assaults,  Which types of assaults?
    • Others?
  • Property crimes
    • Break-ins
    • Thefts
    • Criminal Damage
    • _________?
    • _________?
  • Robberies
    • Personal
    • Commercial
    • Location
    • Planned
    • Repeated
    • ________?
  • Vehicle thefts
    • Type being stolen
    • Location stolen
    • Location recovered
    • Keys
    • Vehicle damage
  • Some assaults
    • Enmity
    • More than one rape
    • Specific groups of people
    • __________?

§        Usually not predictable

  • Family violence (unless you are aware)
  • Hit and miss crime (no patterns)
  • Murder (usually known by victim)
  • Child crimes inside home
    • Depend on other authorities to help
  • High tech crime (white collar)
  • ____________________?

§        Crime Trend Information

  • Gather it
  • Centralize it
  • Visualize it
  • Analyze it
  • Share it
  • Act on it


  • Defining a crisis:
  • One person in charge
  • Establish Command, Control and Discipline
  • Allow person in Command to Command
  • Control the Crisis – don’t make it worse
  • Gather and share information
  • Document all actions and decisions
  • Deal with Facts not Assumptions
  • The Team Resolves the Crisis

      • Elements of a Major Case Investigation:
      • Mission      -     Roles -   Stakeholders - Perception - Long-term – Pressure

·        Mission

o       Know what the mission is

o       Why you are there

o       How you are expected yo achieve the mission

·        Roles

o       Understand your role and that of the other participants.

o       Prevents role conflict

·        Stakeholders

o       Multiple stakeholders that have a distinct interest in the outcome

o       Identify stakeholders and develop a strategy that assists in meeting their needs

·        Perception

o       Police perceived by stakeholders in ways that can help or hurt the mission

o       Need to be aware

o       How are your actions going to be perceived

·        Long-term

o       Short and long term consequences

o       Allow investigators to focus on short term solution

o       Managers pay attention to long term consequences and case impact

·         Pressure

o       Pressure to “solve the case”

o       Inhibits long term outlook



  • Managers / Supervisors
  • Investigators
  • Evidence Team
  • Laboratory
  • Record keeping process
  • Intelligence Analysts
  • Review Teams
  • Liaison Teams
  • ------------------
  • ------------------
  • ------------------
  • ------------------


  • Know what the mission is
  • Know what the crime is
  • Know what the violation of law is
  • Know what is needed to prove the crime

§       Task Assignments

  • Preserve and photograph the crime scene
  • Prepare logs
  • Recover  and log evidence
  • Properly store evidence
  • Identify witnesses
  • Interview witnesses
  • Insist on attention to detail
  • Record results
  • Investigators do not assume
  • Investigators deal with facts

§        Sample Protocol

·        Initial Response

o       Evacuation

o       Rescue

o       Fire / Medical

·        Maintenance of Law & Order

o       ( crowd control )

·        Traffic Management

o       Ingress / Egress

o       Regular Movement of People

·        Crime Scene Investigation

o       Secure

o       Control

o       Sweep / Search

o       Photograph

o       Collect

·        Damage Control and Apprehension



  • What do you need to know to prove the crime
  • What do we know about the crime
  • Can we reconstruct the crime
  • Type of Crime
  • Location
  • Probability for solution
  • Was it planned or unplanned
  • Establish time, motive, method
  • Crime of passion or pre-planned?
  • Look for mistakes - always there
  • Focus on Neighborhood
  • Use Imagination: Encourage imagination
  • Are existing resources sufficient to achieve case solution?
  • Will the resources adapt to the major case?
  • What other resources need to be brought in?
    • Who authorizes them?
    • For how long?        
      • Under whose authority do they serve?
      • Who are they responsible to?
  • Existing  Standard Operating Procedures make for a good foundation as they are familiar
  • Design planned meetings to discuss investigative mission
  • Insure all involved know their assignments and role
  • Daily Oral Briefings
  • Summary Written Reports
  • Detailed Written Reports
  • Foster Open Communication
  • Who Is Supposed to Know
    • About what?
    • From whom?
  • Who is in charge overall?
  • Who is in charge of different teams/shifts?
  • Who is in charge of:
    •  investigative decisions
    • administrative decisions
  • Who is in charge if boss is unavailable?
    • Line of succession?   Who steps up?
  • What responsibilities have been delegated in event of unavailability?
    • Who does what?    Do they know?
  • Who should be aware of emergency procedures?


  • Do you set time frame for resolution / solution

                                       WHY OR WHY NOT     

  • Establish system of Information control
  • Investigate ALL information
  • Monitor Results / Reporting of information
  • Are you selective in who you assign information to?
  • Is there a place for inexperienced team members?
  • Is there a place on the team for non law enforcement?
  • Do you work around the clock?
  • Do you work all week(s)?
  • Can you afford to allow for time off?
    • Can you afford not to?
  • What shift do key managers work?
      • What key managers does the commander need to have?
      • Guidelines for Managing Personnel in a Major Case
      • Guidelines
  • Focus on Organization
  • Organize for the Long Term
  • Organize from Broad to Specific
  • Organize by Task / Function (specialty)
  • Establish Teams of Tasks / Functions
  • Do Not Let Task Control Outcome
  • Establish and Focus on Mission - Identify Goals
  • Advertise Mission and Goals within the team
  • Assess performance as related to goal achievement
  • Hold Frequent Conferences - With a Purpose
  • Have Daily Analysis - Use Analysis Results
  • Carefully Select those Responsible for Analysis


§       Guidelines for Major Case Managers

  • Cultivate Ideas
    • Don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions
  • Cultivate Communication
  • Be Alert for Burnout - Monitor Morale
  • Remember - Resolution / Solution / Prosecution
  • Pay Attention to Basics
  • Establish Discipline
    • Punitive vs. Control
  • Structure all Press Conferences
  • Leaders Make Presence Known
  • Separate Investigative from Administrative

§        Guidelines for Manager

  • Establish Discipline
  • Be Involved
  • Do not Interfere
  • Do not Ignore the Rest of the Office
  • Perceptions Become Fact
  • Deal with Facts
  • Avoid Assumptions
  • Use New Employees
      • Expect Frustration – “Don’t Display Frustration
  • Maintain Personal Positive Attitude
  • Expect Positive Attitude from Participants
  • Image: Before / During / After
  • Conduct Self Assessment:
    • How am I doing?
  • Insure Attention to Basics
  • Relationships: Before / During / After

§       Critical Questions

  • Who in management oversees the case?
  • What about their other responsibilities?
  • Who is selected as Primary Investigator?
  • Is Primary Investigator in Chain of Command?
  • Who is Final Authority?
  • Who is responsibility delegated to?
  • How active is DPO/DSP at outset of investigation?
  • How active is DPO/DSP as case progresses?
  • How and when are conferences held?
  • Are there separate conferences for management?
  • Who is present in conferences?
  • How are key assignments made?
  • How do you evaluate work of key personnel?
  • Have you planned for paper flow, review, and retrieval?
  • What are the work hours?
  • What shift does the leader work?
  • What is the work week?
  • How do you select personnel for recognition?

§       Field Exercise

  • Review Crime Scene as Mock Event
  • Select Crime Scene Manager
  • Organize team and make assignments
  • Crime Scene Sketch – ingress/egress of suspects
  • Develop team task analysis defining their course of action ( i.e. traffic/crowd control and additional personnel response )


§        Necessity for Detail

·        Expect thorough and complete investigations

·        Do not assume crime is well planned

·        Criminals make mistakes

·        Attention to basics insures all aspects covered

§        All Leads Are Important

  • What leads will be productive?
    • How do you know?
  • “Long Shots” provide positive information
  • Coverage of all leads maintains direction for case
  • Be careful how you prioritize leads

§        Re-Evaluate Leads

·        Step back and evaluate case work

·        Initial stages of case are confusing

·        Information may now be available

·        Serves as checks and balances

·       Imagination

  • Analyze what has occurred
  • Think like criminal
  • Generate “participative” thinking
  • Get “outside the box”

§       Maintain Credibility

  • Look and act like you know what you are doing
  • Maintain professional approach
  • Maintain control
  • Do not be threatening
  • Use case to enhance image
      • Generate Pressure
  • Force mistakes to be made by criminals post-event by:
      • Investigating associates
    • Keep media interested
    • Wanted Posters if appropriate

§      Maintain a Positive Attitude

      • Use of Rewards
  • Consider Purpose
    • Public Awareness
    • Save time and resources
    • Pressure those responsible
      • Rules for Reward
  • Always honor positive information
  • Devote resources to follow up reward tips
  • Consider deadline for receipt of information
  • Consider gradual increases in amount
  • Difference between co-conspirator and information provider
      • Reward Wording
  • Information leading to arrest
  • Information leading to arrest and indictment
  • Information leading to arrest and prosecution
  • Information leading to arrest and conviction
      • Causes of Burnout
  • Management inconsistency
  • Pressure passed down
  • Continual frustrations
  • Over extension / Long shifts
  • Menial Assignments
  • No Clear Objectives
  • Incompetent personnel
  • No input in Decision Making
  • Lack of Total Picture
  • Peaks and Valleys
  • Perceived Failure
  • Prosecutor rejecting the case
  • Living the Case
  • Great Expectations
  • Quasi-Solutions


·        Clear purpose

·        Civilized disagreement

·        Active listening

·        Consensus decision making

·        Shared leadership

·        External networking

·        Active participation

·        Open communications

·        Informal climate

·        Clear roles and work assignments

·        Style diversity

·        Self assessment

§        Clear Purpose

  • Who are we?
  • What are we?
  • When will we be together as a team?
  • Where will we be located?
  • Why are we together?

§       Civilized Disagreement

  • It is OK to disagree
    • on the merits
    • not on the personality
  • Disagreement is not taken personally
  • Disagreement is not the purpose of the team, but providing contrary ideas is.

§        Active Listening

  • Foster open communications
  • Pay attention to what others are saying
  • Act on what is said
  • Provide verbal and physical feedback

§        Consensus Decision Making

  • Ask for opinion
  • Strive for consensus
  • Compromise when possible
  • Ultimately be decisive

§        Shared Leadership

·        Teams need to be involved in the direction of leadership

·        Teams strive for a common mission

§        External Networking

  • Team members bring outside contacts
  • Allow these contacts to be shared with the needs of the major investigation
  • Allows team members to identify with the familiar.
      • Active Participation
  • Be involved
  • Be interested
  • Be sharing
  • Be cooperative
  • Be visible

§        Open Communications

  • Do not allow disagreements to fester
  • Reward positive communication
  • Establish formal system to enhance communication
  • Consider conferences
  • Listen and change when the message is clear

§        Clear Role and Work Assignments

  • What is my job?
  • What is your job?
  • What is our job?
  • How do we work in harmony to do the job?

§        Style Diversity

  • Multiple backgrounds
  • Multiple experiences
  • Divergent backgrounds
  • Divergent experiences

§        Self Assessment

  • How am I doing?
  • How is the team doing?
  • How am I contributing to the team?
  • How can I better contribute to the team?

§        Why Teams Fail

  • Confusing team building  with team work
  • Haphazard team planning
  • Starting before assessing needs
  • Training team members individually
  • Not making teams accountable
  • Not integrating what already know
  • Not allowing spontaneity
  • Not allowing speaking out
  • Not allowing intellectual exchange
  • Not selecting / rewarding self motivated people


  • A process of obtaining useful information from the event

§        Purposes of Debriefing

  • To allow each participant to discuss in detail their issues or concerns, good and bad
  • To compare issues of different components
  • To identify common issues
  • To identify training needs
  • To assist in identifying areas for modification in future plans

§        Guidelines For a Successful Debriefing

  • Advise participants that there will be a debriefing at the case conclusion
  • Give ample time to prepare
  • Advise purpose of debriefing
  • Furnish outline to be followed
  • Have formal but comfortable setting
  • Require individual units to debrief on own
  • Require prioritization of issues from units
  • Require identification of training needs from units
  • Appoint a debriefing coordinator
  • Document input for preparation of debriefing paper
  • Do not allow issues to be personalized
  • Take action after the debriefing
  • Allow recipients to see action taken
  • Recognize those with positive contribution
  • Summarize the debriefing issues
  • Publish a formal report

§        Debriefing Outline

  • Was the mission properly identified and communicated?
  • Were the teams adequately identified?
  • Were there proper resources for the teams?
  • Did the teams receive adequate support?
  • Were the teams prepared to do their job?
  • Were communications effective?
  • Were plans adequate for initial response?
  • Where necessary, did proper transitions of responsibility occur?
  • Was the operational center effective?
  • Were proper lines of authority established?
  • Was administration of the case effective?
  • Was liaison effective?
  • Were media relations effective?
  • How effective was evidence gathering?
  • Did investigation meet needs of prosecution?

§        Summary

  • Organize for the long term
  • Identify key personnel beforehand
  • Maintain two distinct functions
    • Administrative
    • Investigative
  • Define roles of all participants
    • avoid great expectations
    • Pay attention to detail
  • Pay attention to basics
  • Prepare from outset for prosecution
  • Monitor needs of outside agencies
  • Discipline
  • Recognize achievements
  • Document all investigations
  • Organize conferences
  • Prioritize evidence recovery
  • Prioritize management of information
  • Keep open lines of communication
  • Maintain a “can do” approach
  • Keep personnel abreast of developments
  • Maintain a positive image
  • Recognize needs / responsibilities of media
  • Identify stakeholders and their needs
  • Be aware of technical capabilities
  • Work at team development
  • Be a change agent
  • Be a leader
    • develop leaders
  • Be alert for burnout and “post case’ crash
  • Make an honest effort to maintain motivation
  • Allow the case to have a long term impact
  • Look at every case as a major case
  • Be a student of major cases
  • Critique major cases