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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77764 Find in a Library
Title: Case Routinization in Investigative Police Work
Journal: Social Problems  Volume:28  Issue:3  Dated:(February 1981)  Pages:263-275
Author(s): W B Waegel
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 13
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study of the interpretation and handling of criminal incidents in a police detective division found that investigative officers' methods for handling ordinary cases depend on the bureaucratic requirements of producing reports and making the proper number and type of arrests.
Abstract: The study was performed during 9 months of participant observation field work in a city police detective division. In the police department studied, detectives are required to produce a formal investigative report within 2 weeks after a case is assigned. In addition, detectives feel under pressure to produce an acceptable level of arrests (two to three lockups per week) to enhance their chances of remaining in the detective division and gaining promotion. Under these constraints, the officers resort to categorization schemes that typify cases as routine or nonroutine. Should a case fall into a generally familiar type, it does not receive a vigorous or thorough investigative effort, which is reserved for extraordinary cases falling outside the recognized patterns. It is this process of investigative police work that largely determines which criminal incidents will be treated as summarily suspended cases and which will be investigated and to what extent. The interpretive schemes used by detectives are not based solely on their experience as police investigators, but also on their accumulated experiences as everyday social actors whose commonsense knowledge is fraught with biases, prejudices, and interpretations. Furthermore, in highly routinized cases patterns, detectives often rely upon assumptions instead of investigative work to add detail to a case, which results in fudging, doctoring, and manipulation of formal organizational reports. This type of decisionmaking by bureaucratic agents is characteristic where caseloads are high, continued interaction with clients is not anticipated, minimal information is available, and the body of knowledge used by the agent is imprecise. Stereotypes then tend to become the operative and binding basis for decisionmaking. Footnotes and 15 references are given.
Index Term(s): Criminal investigation; Criminal investigation units; Discretionary decisions; Police decisionmaking; Police discretion; Police diversion
Note: Earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Boston, MA, 1979.
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