Training the effective detective: a case-study examining the role of training in learning to be a detective

Tong, S. (2005) Training the effective detective: a case-study examining the role of training in learning to be a detective. Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge.

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This research seeks to understand the process of detective training and its contribution to the practice of crime investigation. A traditional focus upon the outcomes of the investigative process has proven contentious as it fails to provide evidence on which to base adequate assessment of the quality of detective work. Thus in the research I explore ways in which detective work is learned and the contribution that detective training makes to effective investigative practice by examining the process of crime investigation and the concept of effectiveness in this context.

The research seeks to describe the reality of crime investigation as it is practised by detectives and explores the question of what counts as ‘good quality’ detective work. Based on a critical review of the literature on the investigative quality of detective work, the thesis concludes that the effective detective has a breadth of skills (investigative, interpersonal and management skills) knowledge (legal, practical and generic knowledge) and personal qualities (intelligence, determination, patience and integrity). Quality in investigation can be conceptualised as going beyond short term crime control objectives and to consider more long term objectives such as crime prevention, victim satisfaction and effective case management. The research is based on extensive interviews with, and observation of, detectives in training and out ‘in the field’. It also includes interviews with trainers and analysis of relevant documents. The research material collected includes approximately 880 hours of observation and data from a total of 56 interviews. The data were collected over a period of fourteen months and involved elements of ethnography as I joined with detective trainees as they were being trained and then shadowed a small sample of detectives as they carried out investigations in the post training phase.

The dissertation provides an insight into detective training and makes a significant contribution to knowledge by revealing something of the meaning of investigative experience and the role of training in the development of trainee detectives. The research findings suggest that the structure of training and the process of measuring competence in the workplace do not currently maximise the learning potential of trainee detectives. Frequently, good detective work is not recognised because it has not achieved a specified goal or objective, whilst the practice of detectives exists in a vacuum of experience with little opportunity for objective reflection and/or professional guidance. Furthermore, the trainees within this sample had an average of 3.5 years investigative experience and this contributed to their perception that much of the content of the formal detective training course had already been learned through experience. In my conclusions I point to weaknesses in the training process and how they might be addressed, including ways of improving the co-ordination of training approaches to ensure consistency and efficiency, ways of improving the relevance and effective delivery of the training content, and the need to introduce work-based assessments to ensure practical competence in the workplace.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV7551-8280.7 Police. Detectives. Constabulary
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Dr Steve Tong
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2016 15:29
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2017 12:11

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00