When we see police solve crimes on television shows, it looks easy. In reality, it’s anything but. Many steps have to be taken, and they have to be taken carefully in order to solve a crime. Police also have to follow a certain protocol because everything has to go by the book, otherwise it can hinder their ability to solve a crime the right way. Sometimes crimes take years to solve, and other times they can be solved more quickly. Here is what usually goes on during a criminal investigation.
At a crime scene, the police arrive. Pictures and/or video is captured, and the evidence is carefully collected. If it is the scene of a murder, pictures of the victim are also taken, and evidence, if any, are collected off of them as well before the body is removed in order to be autopsied. Sometimes, with a criminal investigation, there is more than one crime scene to work on. This makes an investigation significantly harder.
Sometimes witnesses are available that can tell the police what happened and aide them in their investigation. This is where police have to be careful and cross examine every little bit of information they receive. This has to be done in order to make sure the facts are correct. Stories have to be corroborated and if there are any inconsistencies with ones story, that person or persons are usually taken to the police station for an interview or interrogation where official statements are given for future reference.
Sometimes a “witness” to the crime is someone who was responsible for it and therefore what every witness says has to be checked out, along with alibis. The person who acted as a witness sometimes pretends to be one to try and stir any attention away from them, or because they are too cocky and think they can get away with the crime. Criminals reports crimes for the same reasons.
Any evidence that was taken is sent to a crime lab for forensic testing where technicians immediately begin working on it and testing it to see what they can come up with. This can sometimes tell them who was responsible for the crime, or it can just give them a piece of the puzzle, making it more difficult for police to put everything together. Biological material is tested and compared to any known criminals, or it can simply tell them if the perpetrator was a man or a woman.
Fingerprints are analyzed and a number of other things. Television makes it seem like these tests can be rushed but in reality, a lot of times, analyzing evidence takes quite awhile, especially when it comes to testing biological material such as blood; DNA tests.
Analyzing evidence using forensic technology has played a major part in getting a conviction, or exonerating someone who was suspected of committing a crime, but didn’t. When these tests are completed, it’s compared to evidence taken at the crime scene, and any autopsy reports, if any, and it can help tell the story of what really happened at the crime scene, especially when there are no reliable witnesses.
While evidence is being tested at labs, the police begin searching for more clues, and interviewing anyone who could potentially be related to the crime scene, the criminals, or any victims involved. This also aides them in putting many pieces together. This is very time consuming but is very necessary. Every lead has to be checked out and every story has to be cross examined for any inconsistencies.
When the police begin closing in on a suspect or suspects, they are sometimes able to obtain search warrants to search a specific area, or warrants so biological material can be collected from a suspect if it wasn’t collected during the beginning of an investigation, or if more is needed for comparison. Arrest warrants are also given to make an official arrest.
Sometimes a suspect is arrested and kept in custody until all of the evidence is tested that will either convict them or exonerate them. This can be quite an ordeal for someone who is innocent, but in many cases, is necessary for the police so they can be sure they have the right person or not.
When all of the evidence is tested, analyzed, and compared, arrests can be carried out (if one wasn’t done already) and a trial can be set. After the trial is over the suspect is usually sentenced. If the person was innocent, and the evidence proves this, they are set free. In more complicated cases, the innocent is still convicted because of false testimonies (lies), or because a testimony was interpreted the wrong way and mislead the jury. In this case new trials can be given, if granted, and other times it takes years to exonerate an innocent person. It’s not always a happy ending in reality.
Cold cases occur because there wasn’t enough evidence and/or witnesses to go on with a specific case, and the trail goes cold. Cases remain open, sometimes for years, until new evidence or witnesses surface in order for the trail to go hot again or for a case to be reopened. Cold cases also happen because of the time period in which the crime happened, and the lack of forensic technology needed to aide the case. The same techniques are put in place until a conviction is given and until the case is completely solved.