Psychologist's Role in Homicide Investigations
April 20, 2012
As a police psychologist, you are part of an investigation into the homicide of a high profile community member, the mayor. The information you received from the department is that the victim was found with a single gunshot wound to the head. He was last seen with another notable figure (who?) at a nearby restaurant. You learn that before becoming the mayor, the deceased was the chief of your department and was very close to many administrators and officers.
Police psychologists assisting with high profile homicide investigations provide valuable knowledge and abilities that assist in interpreting the psychological clues surrounding the victim's death, and potentially the identity and motive of the perpetrator, if they have not been apprehended, as in the case above. In the following essay, I will play the role of the psychologist who has been called in to aid in the investigation of the Mayor's murder. I will discuss the various responsibilities within my role during the investigation, what procedures I will use to investigate, and what other assistance I am able to provide to the victim's family as well as the officers and the communitiy as a whole, who are all grieving over the loss of their Mayor.
The Psychologist's Role in the Homicide Investigation
As a licensed psychologist with experience in psycholegal issues, I am able to see from the perspective of both the psychologist and the law enforcement officer. Also, I have been trained to remain sympathetic and empathetic to the plight of others. That ability allows me to get along quite well witnin the department, therefore I am able to assist with many duties throughout the department, including the investigation into the Mayor's murder. Especially in this situation, where not only the Mayor's family will be grieving, but many citizens and officials throughout the community will be as well. As much assistance as I can provide to the investigation, I can provide just as much theraputic assistance to the officers and community in my role.
Psychological investigation is a form of applied psychology that was established by David Cantor in 1985, and generally it's just a title for all of the work I will do during the investigation process. Before beginning my own procedures, detectives may call me in to be a part of post-incident debriefings with the first-responding officers. The victim was the Chief of Police before becoming Mayor, and so many of the officers who were called to the scene and were friendly with the victim when he was Chief may have been quite traumatized seeing him in that way. During the debriefings I will provide the officers with grief counseling and other advice for dealing with feelings with loss and anger with the whole situation. If some of the officers need further assistance, I can provide a reference to an outside psychologist or psychiatrist. Once I am ready to begin, there are three primary questions I consider as I go through the entire investigation, which when answered from a psychological point of view, may help identify certain psychological features about the crime and the possible characteristics of the perpetrator, or even the individuals identity:
What are the important behavioral features of the crime that might help identify the perpetrator? What inferences can be made about the perpetrator's characteristics that will help identify the individual? Have there been other similar crimes committed that may have been committed by the same perpetrator as the one who possibly committed this crime?
Profiling is a major part of my role, and is one of the most commonly known. There are different types of profiles that are useful for different investigations, and are chosen based on the information they can provide. In this case, I would...