Information Management

It follows that three processes are always present in any investigation that can be improved by psychological study. First, the collection and evaluation of information derived from accounts of the crime. These accounts may include photographs or other recordings derived from the crime scene. There may also be records of other transactions such as bills paid or telephone calls made. Increasingly there are also records available within computer systems used by witnesses, victims or suspects. Often there will be witnesses to the crime or there will be results of the crime available for examination. There will transcripts of interviews or reports from various experts. Further there will be information in police and other records that may be drawn upon to provide indications for action. Once suspects are elicited there is further potential information about them either directly from interviews with them, or indirectly through reports from others. In addition there may be information from various experts that has to be understood and may lead to actions.

The major task of a police investigation is, therefore, typically to collect, assess and utilise a great variety of sources of information that provide accounts of crime. This is a task that can benefit considerably from the scientific study of human memory processes and other psychological studies of the reliability and validity of reports and their assessment. Indeed, much of the information that the police collect is analogous to the 'unobtrusive' or 'non-reactive' measures that social scientists have always utilised (cf. Webb et al., 1966). Therefore, many of the psychometric issues that have been explored to improve the quality and utility of such measures are directly relevant to police investigations. In some circumstance social science approaches may even expand the range of information that detectives may consider.

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