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Dealing with Uncertainties in Policing Serious Crime

Dealing with Uncertainties in Policing Serious Crime

edited by Gabriele Bammer
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Dealing with Uncertainties in Policing Serious Crime
    Book Description:

    Grappling with uncertainties is at the heart of investigating serious crime. At a time when such crime is becoming more complex and resources are increasingly stretched, this book draws together research and practice perspectives to review fruitful approaches to uncertainties and to chart the way forward. Scene setting chapters describe the consequences of globalisation and the spread of sophisticated information technologies (Sue Wilkinson), as well as advances in understanding and managing uncertainty (Michael Smithson). Ways of enhancing responses from statistics (Robyn Attewell), risk analysis (Richard Jarrett and Mark Westcott) and the psychology of decision making (Mark Kebbell, Damon Muller and Kirsty Martin) follow. These are complemented by insights from law (the Hon. Tim Carmody SC), politics (the Hon. Carmen Lawrence) and business (Neil Fargher), which all have significant intersections with policing. Synthesis is provided by the four final chapters which present the outlooks of the investigating officer and investigation manager (Peter Martin), the provider of policing higher education (Tracey Green and Greg Linsdell), the capacity-building consultant (Steve Longford), and the leader of a law enforcement agency (Alastair Milroy).

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-37-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Police have always had to grapple with uncertainties in their investigations of crime, so considerable effort has gone into reducing unknowns by developing technologies, like DNA testing, and procedures, like a record of interview. As crime, especially serious crime, has become more complex and resources have become more stretched it is starting to become evident that reduction cannot be the only approach to uncertainties. But how else can unknowns be tackled?

    It turns out that many aspects of understanding and managing unknowns have long been a blind-spot in western intellectual thought (Smithson 1989). However, in recent years, as researchers have...

  6. Setting the Scene

    • The Modern Policing Environment
      (pp. 15-26)

      The author Fay Weldon was recently quoted as commenting ′I find the phrase ″organised criminals″ comforting. When I hear it I thank God somebody, somewhere knows what they′re doing and has a plan′ (Weldon 2009). She was speaking in jest of course, but if only it were indeed that simple. Organised crime does not necessarily follow a logical process, a plan. If it did, it would be far easier to anticipate, detect, prevent and make effective interventions. As it is, serious and organised crime has changed and adapted with the modern world, exploiting the opportunities it brings. Adaptive, innovative, ahead...

    • Understanding Uncertainty
      (pp. 27-48)

      An overview of uncertainty in this practice-oriented setting may seem too academic by half. Why indulge in an exercise around understanding uncertainty? Surely we should be focusing on the business of removing uncertainties, by improving our predictions of when and where criminal activity or threats to security will arise, the effectiveness of our methods of investigation, intelligence and case-solving, and our understanding of the root causes of crime and security threats.

      Those are laudable goals. Nevertheless, they entail implicit assumptions about the nature of the uncertainties involved in policing and security, and how stakeholders understand these uncertainties and the risks...

  7. Enhancing Accepted Approaches

    • Can Statistics Help?
      (pp. 51-66)

      There is plenty of uncertainty associated with crime. From a layperson′s point of view, it is part of the allure. From Agatha Christie to Kathy Reichs, from Homicide to Underbelly; from Hawaii Five-O to Law and Order, and all the myriad, forensics-based TV dramas, crime has long been a popular and dependable entertainment theme. I expect it is not just the ′who?′ out of the ′whodunnit?′ that draws people in, but also the ′how?′ and the ′why?′, and the possibility that the perpetrator just might get away with it. From the comfort of one′s own home, we try to get...

    • Quantitative Risk
      (pp. 67-86)

      A key question in policing serious crime is the allocation of resources, by which we mean not just the quantity but also the type or quality of the resource. This implies a need to generate options and to develop decision-making processes that lead to action. In the book arising from a recent symposium on Uncertainty and Risk, it was noted that there was ′an interesting tension between researchers and consultants—researchers focus on the gaps in what is known … and consultants are oriented to synthesis in order to develop … an approach to the issue at hand′ (Bammer et...

    • Understanding and Managing Bias
      (pp. 87-98)

      A large amount of evidence, mostly from research in psychology, suggests that decision-making and information processing abilities are often not optimal because the informational complexity of the world overwhelms human cognitive abilities and creates bias. This is exacerbated by contextual pressures, such as time constraints, dynamism and changing goals. Our aim in this chapter is to identify some of the key cognitive biases that contribute to uncertainty, as well as emerging mechanisms to manage them. We also discuss the importance of promoting realistic expectations of the police and security services in their responses to such uncertainty.

      While these issues are...

  8. Insights from Adjunct Areas

    • Criminal Law
      (pp. 101-114)

      The law is our most basic democratic institution. It is the standard operating environment for all regulatory and enforcement agencies. It dictates the who, what and why of civil and criminal liability and the how much, or quantum, of relief or punishment. In very broad terms the criminal law is a code or system of rules for social order and control based on prevailing moral values. Without it there would be anarchy and chaos. It creates and enforces mutually beneficial private and public rights and responsibilities. It is the sum of the mandatory restrictions accepted by a civilised state for...

    • Politics
      (pp. 115-126)

      Policing is highly political. What is defined as crime in legislation and how crimes are depicted are essentially political decisions. Similarly, the priority given to the detection and prosecution of various crimes and the resources devoted to those tasks are dependent on the perceptions that politicians and their advisers have of the risks to the public—and to their own political futures—posed by those crimes. These assessments are not necessarily dispassionate appraisals of the actual risks posed and can be seriously distorted by moral panics and fear campaigns.

      I canvass the key issues in the psychology of uncertainty and...

    • Business
      (pp. 127-138)

      The disciplines of business seek to provide tools to deal with risk and uncertainty. Business leaders frequently need to manage within relatively finite resources and relatively unpredictable levels of demand or supply. This chapter provides an overview of uncertainty in business, with techniques for dealing with uncertainty and also some recent failures to do so. It concludes with a specific example of understanding organised crime as a business. Many business rules are relevant to how policing manages itself, as well as how policing understands and responds to crime.

      Most business decisions are made within a context of uncertainty. Coping with...

  9. Commentaries from Practice

    • The Investigating Officer and the Investigation Manager
      (pp. 141-152)

      Serious crime investigations can be protracted, are usually complex and are often controversial. The circumstances of one crime differentiate it from another. The victim and location might be different, the modus operandi, or way in which the offence occurred, may also be different. Regardless of such differences the processes utilised in the major crime investigation can and usually do, follow a tried and true process.

      Although as Sue Wilkinson identifies in her chapter (2010), there seems to be a limitless diversity of new and emerging crime types which confront and challenge contemporary police officers, the reality is that many of...

    • Higher Education in Policing
      (pp. 153-168)

      We are interested in the relationships between higher education, uncertainty and the investigation of serious crime while acknowledging that there is ′higher education′ and then there is ′higher′ education. The investigation of serious crime has changed considerably, but having to deal with uncertainty is the one element that can be predicted with certainty. It is no coincidence that higher education has taken on more and more importance in the policing profession and this chapter will reveal some of the reasons for this without intending to take away from or diminish the importance of ′service developed and delivered′ training. Indeed this...

    • Consultancy to Build Capacity in Dealing with Uncertainty in Law Enforcement
      (pp. 169-190)

      This chapter is based on research and anecdotal feedback aggregated over the past eight years in order to develop some of the training that New Intelligence provides to law enforcement, compliance and national security agencies, as well as the higher end of the corporate sector. It highlights the main kinds of issues that have driven the development of this training—both about the problems police face and about methods they can use to enhance their ability to deal with uncertainty.

      Everyday, in all aspects of their lives, people are constantly making decisions. These decisions are an integral part of life,...

    • Law Enforcement Agencies which Respond to Nationally Significant Crime
      (pp. 191-206)

      The purpose of this chapter is to present the uncertainty of investigating and responding to nationally significant crime from a law enforcement agency perspective and to use that perspective to comment on the other chapters. Responding to national crime threats involves a multitude of agencies, but my knowledge and experience is predominately law enforcement related and this paper is from that viewpoint.

      The paper is practical and describes four major uncertainties that I was confronted with at the Australian Crime Commission in responding to nationally serious crime. The paper acknowledges there is no scientific method to achieve a successful outcome...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 207-214)