Roles in an Investigation Term Paper

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Police Psychologist

Roles in an Investigation

In this kind of investigation whereby the police psychologist is investigating the homicide of a high profile member of the community, the police psychologist plays several roles. One is that he or she will be involved in collecting and analyzing of psychological evidence that pertains to the homicide case. In this role, the police psychologist will be involved in a process that starts at the scene of the crime whereby he will use scientific principles and formulas to help in solving the crime. In this role, fingerprint collection and analysis of other identifiers of the crime scene is essential to solving the case. The psychologist will also be involved in analyzing of impressions of the crime scene to see what they match and also run the crime scene impressions and collected fingerprints with comparisons of others in the police database. Identification and analysis of trace evidence such as samples of glass, hairs, fibers, paint, and other materials in the crime scene will also be important Hartwig, Granhag, Stromwall, & Kronkvist, 2006.

The police psychologist will also point out to chemical analysis what to test including drugs, explosives and other unknown chemicals.

The second role to be played by the police psychologist is that of a following leads. In this role, the police psychologist will be involved with interviewing key persons that might have clues to the murder. These include people working in the mayor's house such as butlers, maids, and drivers, as well as other key personnel. Other persons in the mayor's office will also provide leads to the mayor's death by trying to piece together events that occurred before the mayor's death. Often the psychologist will be involved in debriefing these individuals and aiding police officers in dealing with the case. Psychologists help in conducting interviews with these people since they have expertise to differential acting from the real events. They are able to identify with ease when a person is talking with confidence while lying and when they are telling the truth Durand & Barlow, 2007()

A third role to be played is that of questioning documents. The police psychologist will be essential in detecting forgery and any alternations in documents that can help in piecing together the crimes. The police psychologist will also play a crucial role in reconstructing documents that may have been destroyed by the perpetrators. This is also crucial in identifying clues towards solving the crime. This role will also involve identifying the sources of documents with details such as the printer used, typewriter, copier, etc. These are also essential to piecing together evidence towards solving the crime Feldman, 2013()

Once the evidence is analyzed by the psychologist, these may also be passed on to another detective or scientist to share their opinion. This is also a crucial role for police psychologists. They identify the ideal persons to share the information with and gather their expert conclusions which they draw from their independent analysis of the evidence available.

Purpose and use of a psychological autopsy

A psychological autopsy is an essential tool in understanding the state of mind of both the victim and the perpetrators before the death. This is because many of the times, the circumstances surrounding the homicide can be interpreted and provide crucial information towards solving the case. This psychological autopsy will help the psychologist to group together clues such as the behavior, motive, and psychological state of the perpetrators towards solving the case. This is different from a medical autopsy, which only determines the cause of the death and the mechanism or mode of death. While these are crucial pieces of information, often they do not explain clearly what happened before the death. The psychological autopsy will help to clear the unknowns in this case Stack & Gundlach, 1994()

The psychological autopsy has four main purposes. First is that it helps to determine te mode of death. This means the means by which the person died be it a gunshot wound, asphyxiation, or heart attack. The psychological autopsy plays a huge role in determining the mode of the death since it helps to differentiate the different ways the person may have died thus help in prosecuting the homicide case. The second purpose of the psychological autopsy is that it helps to give information on why the person was killed on that particular day and at that particular time. This helps to differentiate cases of the right person being at the wrong place and at the wrong time and cases of planned homicide. These are also essential in prosecuting the case. The third purpose of the psychological autopsy is that it helps to give information on the motivation for the death. The psychological autopsy identifies whether the death was intentional, sub-intentional, or unintentional. The fourth and last purpose of the psychological autopsy is that it gives therapeutic value to the victim's family since they are able to get answers as to why the person was killed and thus be able to move on with their lives Ito, Nobutomo, Fujimiya, & Yoshida, 2010.

It is for these four main purposes that the psychological autopsy for the mayor's homicide is justified.

Since the person murdered is a high profile member of the society, the mayor, understanding the sequence of events before the death is essential in helping to solve the case. As stated by scholars, the psychological autopsy should be conducted by the psychologist to aid in interpretation of the crime scene and contribute to the overall investigation. The psychological autopsy will provide a psychological profile of the homicide case, especially since it is a high profile case. Since the victim cannot tell the story of how things happened, the psychological autopsy will try to do this.

The psychological autopsy is also essential in determining whether a death was an accident, suicide, or a homicide by interpreting the psychological circumstances surrounding the death. For this high profile case, the thoughts, behavior, relationships, and feelings of the mayor are important. The psychological autopsy should be aimed at determining the goal of the perpetrator of the homicide and to find out why the mayor was killed. The result of this autopsy will be beneficial to both the mayor's family, the police officers prosecuting the homicide case, and insurers if he had taken life insurance Tyler, Sherman, Strang, Barnes, & Woods, 2007()

Steps taken in conducting a psychological autopsy

In conducting a psychological autopsy, the police psychologist should do things in a sequence that enables successful completion of the autopsy to provide the best results. The first step is investigation of the crime scene. Information from the crime scene which is available in the police report and information that the psychologist collects first hand is essential in identifying relationships, emotions, and feelings of the victim at the time of death. The occupation and other support systems may also be available from the crime scene. This crime scene analysis should be conducted by looking at the crime scene itself together with other photos and evidence that has been collected by police officers at the scene of the crime. Toxicology reports from chemical analysis of items collected at the crime scene will also provide crucial information regarding the mode of death.

The second step after this is reviewing all records for this case. These include eyewitness interviews, police debriefs, and interviews of key personnel who may have information towards solving the case. This information provides an essential list of persons who should be targeted for the interviews and also pieces together events before the death. This thorough reconstruction of the sequence of events before the death are essential in the psychological autopsy because they help the psychologist understand the victim's state of mind at the time when they died.

The third step after the information has been collected and reviewed by the psychologists is for the psychologist to gather their own information and documents to review. This is the third step because the information collected by others in the process acts as the background information for the autopsy Hansen, 2000.

The psychologist at this stage should review records of the victim's life right from birth all the way to the time of death. This includes school life, work life, medical records and other relevant events. This is essential in helping the psychologist understand how the victim behaved in their life, the persons they related with, and other connections that are essential in piecing together the death. Medical records will allow the psychologist to rule out medical issues that may have led to the death of the mayor. The psychologist will also be able to understand whether the victim suffered from any psychological conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder may have led to suicidal behavior.

The next step in this process is for the psychologist to search for clues in the victim's residence as well as their office. This information including any personal memoirs kept by the victim as well as their clothing,…

Sources Used in Document:


Durand & Barlow. (2007). Essentials of Abnormal Psychology. Mason, Ohio.: Cengage Learning.

Feldman, F. (2013). A PSYCHOLOGIST'S ADVENTURES, PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL. The American Journal of Psychology, 126(1), 119-124. doi: 10.5406/amerjpsyc.126.1.0119

Hansen, M. (2000). Suicidal Missions: Psychological autopsies to uncover motivation in suspicious deaths are themselves now suspect. ABA Journal, 86(3), 28-29. doi: 10.2307/27841067

Hartwig, M., Granhag, P.A., Stromwall, L.A., & Kronkvist, O. (2006). Strategic Use of Evidence during Police Interviews: When Training to Detect Deception Works. Law and Human Behavior, 30(5), 603-619. doi: 10.2307/4499497

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