The method of inquiry is the way that an investigator or detective gathers information about a specific case. There is several different method of inquiry such as evidence collection, witness and victim statements, and information stored in public and private databases. The methods of inquiry are used to figure out what happened at a particular crime scene. A criminal investigator is trying to establish the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the crime. During this process the information that is gathered can be piece together to help reconstruct what had happened at that crime scene. How this works is the investigator or detective, slowly and methodically works a crime scene gathering any evidence that can be obtained. He then gathers statements from anyone who was involved with the crime. Each of these steps can help paint a picture of what had happened. Specific aspects, like how the subject entered the house, and how he appeared to act while he was in the house, will give the Investigator or Detective a possible MO – Modus Operandi which is a subject’s specific method of committing a crime. This information can be put into the department’s report management system and if this MO has been seen before in a previous case, it could turn up a suspect’s name.
To work Criminal Investigations, Investigators have to have an optimal mindset. A mindset is a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretation of situations (Farlex, Inc., 2012). Not all law enforcement officers have the optimal mindset to work criminal investigations. When one investigates, he or she makes a systematic inquiry, closely analyzes and inspects while dissecting and scrutinizing information (Alifano, 2006). If an investigator does not have an optimal mindset then crucial evidence could be lost or mishandled. The investigator must take the time to look at every aspect of the case and determine what is fact and what is fiction. During an investigation the investigator is going to find multiple pieces of evidence. Some of the evidence is going to be important to the case and other evidence is might not be relevant, but it is up to the investigator to determine what is or is not important. To do this he has to follow all leads and piece the case together.
Without the proper mindset an investigator might skip certain things and miss important facts. Some investigators come in to the criminal investigation field with an optimal mindset in place and others have to obtain it through training and experience. The scientific method is the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate (that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary) representation of the world (Bright, 1952).The scientific method consist of several steps observation, Research, hypothesis, Analyze the data, draw a conclusion, communicate the results. The criminal investigations use this method to investigate crimes. An investigator will observe the scene and the surrounding. He or she will then gather all evidence that is important to the case. At that time the investigator will research information and put it together with the evidence. This will help the investigator draw a hypothesis; a hypothesis is an educated guess on what happened. The investigator will then follow the hypothesis and gather and analyze the data to see if it supports the hypothesis, this data could be suspect interview.
In some cases the investigator might not have been correct with the first hypothesis, at that point he or she goes back to the hypothesis step and apply the new data and create a new hypothesis. The investigators will then gather and analyze the data from the new hypothesis. If ever thing matches up the investigator will then draw a conclusion and communicate the results in a written report. There are many sources of information that investigators uses while working a criminal investigation. Three of the main sources are physical evidence, interviews, and electronic databases. The evidence at a crime scene can tell an investigator a lot about the crime. In a homicide case in can tell you if the was a struggle or if victim might have known the suspect. Where certain items are laying can help start to paint a picture of what might have occurred at the scene. Some of the evidence is hidden and some is not. Investigators will have to use special tools to help locate the hidden evidence, like latent finger prints. Evidence like latent finger prints and DNA will have to be sent to the crime lab for further processing. This evidence can put a subject in the crime scene at the time of the incident.
This evidence could come back to the victim, the suspect, or witness. Interviews of victims, witness, and suspects are another good source of information when working criminal cases. This will also help start to paint a picture of what actually occurred at the crime scene. One thing to remember though is that everyone see something a little differently, this does not mean it did not occur it just means the subject was only fixated on the specific subject or item. As an investigator goes through the interview process he will be able to compare the statements with the evidence and determine what is fact and what is fiction. The third source of information is electronic databases, such as the RMS – Report Management System, Cell phone companies, electric companies, etc.
These databases can be mined for important information about the case, suspects, witness, and victims. A good example would be that you are investigating a homicide case. Next to the victim is a cell phone, you look in the phone and see that it appears that the victim had received a call a few minutes before the incident occurred. A subpoena can be done to obtain the account information of that specific phone number. When the investigator receives the information, he or she can then run the name through NCIC and RMS to get any criminal history on the subject. With the criminal history and the cell phone records the investigator received a possible address for the subject. This person is not a suspect at this point but they are a person of interest.
Alifano, C. (2006). Fundamentals of Criminal Investigation. Retrieved from http://www.worldwidelawenforcement.com/docs/FUNDAMENTALS%20OF%20CRIMINAL%20INVESTIGATIONS.pdf Bright, W. (1952). Introduction to the Scientific Method. Retrieved from http://teacher.nsrl.rochester.edu/phy_labs/appendixe/appendixe.html Farlex, Inc.. (2012). Mindset. Retrieved from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mindset Osterburg, J. W., & Ward, R. H. (2010). Criminal investigation, A method for reconstructing the past (6th ed.). Newark, NJ: Lexis Nexis / Anderson Publishing.