Author: National Policing Institute

Organizing for Effective Homicide Investigations

Publication Date: May 2018

In recent years, increased attention has been given to ways to improve homicide investigations. Research in the 1970s (Greenwood and Petersilia) seemed to demonstrate that the investigative activities of police had little impact on the solution of crimes. However, by the 1990s a growing body of literature demonstrated that police do matter. Today there is little doubt that how police organize for and conduct homicide investigations has a substantial impact on how successful they are in clearing those crimes. Unfortunately, the research on homicide investigations has been limited in its usefulness to police because of limitations in the literature itself, including the way in which agencies are selected for study and the comprehensiveness of the model used to explain clearances. In almost all the existing research, agencies were selected nonrandomly and were essentially convenience samples. This makes generalization to other agencies problematic at best. Until the study conducted by Lum and Wellford (2018), the most neglected factors in prior research were not addressed: the nature, policies, and practices of the agencies in which homicide investigations occur, which is the focus of this publication.