Last Updated 06 Jul 2020

Police and Critical Thinking

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As a police officer it is our role to observe, think about, and solve problems objectively and systematically. Police officers attend a variety of scenarios when working as a general duties officers it is our job to discover the truth; this requires the use of critical thinking and the scientific method of investigation to find the truth. When attending a job and conducting an investigation into a crime or offence police must utilise these skills as critical thinking and the scientific method of investigation go hand in hand with one another.

In particular, to be able to make effective use of the scientific model, you need to be a critical thinker (Osterburg & Ward 1992 pp 11). Using the Scientific Method of Investigation requires police to identify the problem on arrival, then to form a hypothesis as to what has happened as well as possible suspects and motives. By collecting further data, police can then review their original hypothesis and start to make an evidence based conclusion on the incident at hand.

The whole point of police investigations whatever the crime or incident is to arrive at the truth (Miller,L & Connelly,M. 1996). There are six steps to the scientific method of investigation. (Becker, RF, 2000, p. 7) The six steps are state the problem, create a hypothesis, collect all data, test the hypothesis, continue to collect data and finally arrive at a theory. By adhering to this method it provides framework that best assists police in discovering the truth about what happened in a structural, factual and reliable way. PPP232 Topic 3) In this essay I will be critiquing the way the police officers have investigated the assault on Mr Lee that took place and how the officers have used both critical thinking and the scientific method of Investigation, to gather all evidence available to find the truth, in an ethical manner. When applying the first stage of the investigation to the scenario the officers attending the scene are approached by the licensee of the Chiefly Hotel. Denise Spence informs Senior Constable Baltrow that a barman who works in her hotel has been assaulted.

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Previous experience and observations are both factors which aid us in identifying a problem; this is known as ‘inductive reasoning. ’ In this case, I believe, both factors come into play for Senior Constable Baltrow. Senior constable Baltrow then begins to question the licensee. During the questioning process a male appears from down the street who seems to be out of breath. This male Gary Rawlings, states to police he has just chased a male who assaulted Dan Lee. It appears Mr Rawlings has a lot of valuable information about the assault.

By using Denise and Gary’s evidence the Officer in charge is able to identify that a male has been assaulted and taken to Bathurst hospital. The problem has now been identified and the Officers can use their initial observations and the current information they have gathered to begin to form the hypothesis. “A working hypothesis is like an incomplete puzzle that comes together a piece at a time. ” (Becker, 2000. pp. 4). After forming a logical hypothesis that the victim was assaulted by a male, it is now up to the officers to “Collect Further Data”.

Whilst collecting data the Officers will be identifying, utilizing and evaluating various sources of information and evidence collected at the scene to help support their hypothesis. Both the statements give evidence to prove the assault took place but police have no information as to why the assault happened. Constable Buchman points out to Senior constable Baltrow that there is CCTV footage available. In collecting data it is also crucial for the police to be able to link all the evidence presented from witness, victim and available evidence from the crime scene.

The next step in the investigation is to interpret the data and test the hypothesis. The statements made by the witnesses may change the officer’s hypothesis from ‘was the assault carried out intentionally or was in self-defence, the CCTV footage will provide officers with valuable evidence to support their hypothesis. For the officers to come to a decision, about their initial hypothesis, it requires critical thinking about their line of investigation. Critical thinking is an integral part of the scientific method of investigation.

It is the examination and test of propositions of any kind which are offered for acceptance, in order to find out whether they correspond to reality or not. (Nixon, Stefanovic, & O’Conner, 2009, p. 74). The concept of critical thinking includes inductive and deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is the process of arriving at a conclusion based on a set of observations. In itself it is not a valid piece of evidence as it can lead to assumptions, stereotypes and prejudices about a suspect. It can also lead to tunnel vision.

Deductive reasoning is using the evidence and information at hand to create specific facts and ideas about what occurred during an incident. Its use can help create a hypothesis to help investigators advance in an investigation. It is a starting point for an investigation not a conclusion and an integral part of the scientific method of investigation (PPP232 Module 3). It is not your job to punish: your job is to discover the; who, what, where, when, how and why of an event, and then to report the matter to another authority (Court, Coroner, DPP, Workcover etc).

This is the key role of investigation – discovering the truth of the matter and this subject strives to expand your knowledge and skills so you become an effective, professional and ethical investigator. The data that the investigating police were provided with through the investigation process was able to offer police with a sequence of events, before, during and after the incident. The data collected by the police has ensured that the witnesses version of events, matched up with the CCTV footage at the scene.

This shows how important evidence is in the investigation process as it allows police to correctly identify and charge suspects according to law. The officers in the scenario believe they are dealing with an assault. To help investigate the crime further the officers will now gather additional data. The officers collect the CCTV footage which will play vital part in the investigation. A description of the suspect is given to Senior constable Baltrow and is broadcasted over the police radio.

The officer in charge then proceeds further into the investigation when he is informed about a piece of wood which was used in the assault. The Officer locates the piece of wood and records, photographs and collects this evidence. The next stage of the investigation is to take statements from the witnesses, victim, to obtain a copy of the CCTV footage, and search the area for further witnesses or evidence. Police would then send out Forensic service Group to see if there is any further evidence they can obtain from the scene.

The CCTV footage obtained will confirm the witness’s versions. The police now attend Bathurst Hospital to speak with Mr Lee and Catherine James about what occurred at the Chiefly Hotel. Their statements will be a vital part of the investigation. Police observations of Mr Lee’s injuries are consistent with the statements gathered. Police take statements which confirm and support the facts gathered about the assault. Over the radio police get a call stating that a male has been caught trespassing on a property.

On arrival the person of interest appears to match the description of the accused involved in the assault at the Chiefly hotel. Applying critical thinking to the new evidence given about a male attempting to break into a property at Bathurst, police now have the suspect allowing for the investigation to begin. The officers are able to caution the offender and begin questioning Jason Priest about the assault. During the questioning process the accused states that the victim came up to him and assaulted him with the piece of wood.

Using the CCTV footage the police will now have to view the footage to test this theory. At this stage of the investigation the officers believe they have sufficient data to support their decision on arresting the accused. The Officers will now need to collate any further evidence which would be beneficial to their case such as the victim and witness statements, CCTV footage, forensic evidence from the scenes and the photo identification back at Bathurst Police Station. The data which has been collected is all evidence that meets the description and identifies the suspect.

Now that the police have obtained vital information they are able to place the two men out the front of the Chiefly hotel. The victim and first witness supplied important information to the Officers which allowed them to start the investigation, the officers were able to obtain sufficient data to support what type of offence was committed. The only barrier could be the witnesses may drawback from an investigation as they could be affected by emotion, threats, or fear to give their true account on what happened. The responding officers are in a position not only to influence the victim’s feelings, perceptions and assessments regarding the victimisation experience, but whether the victim will assist in the prosecution of the case. ’ In this prosecution the CCTV is important as it shows who has the piece of wood and the method in which it was used, intent or self-defence. The CCTV footage helps the officers comprehend what has occurred and collaborate the versions that have been represented by the witnesses. Police have obtained 3 forms of evidence: Real, Original and Documentary.

Real evidence is an object, something tangible that is found at a crime scene or is related to an offence. In this scenario an example of real evidence is the piece of wood that was used by the accused as a weapon in the assault. Original evidence is evidence given by a witness, a statement and anything said by a person in relation to the offence and what they saw. Police obtained statements from Denise, Catherine James and Mr Lee. Documentary evidence is anything that can be classed as a document. Relating to this scenario the officers took photos of the weapon in the assault and collected CCTV footage from Denise the licensee of the hotel.

From gathering and assessing all evidence police can now “Draw an Evidence Based Conclusion”. It is now up to the officers to use critical thinking to link all pieces of evidence to the crime to find the truth. By individualising each piece of evidence found, the officers can identify what each piece of evidence means, determine the reliability of the evidence and what range of conclusions can be drawn from it. By collecting further data, police can then review their original hypothesis and start to make an evidence based conclusion.

When undertaking any role as a police officer it is important to maintain professionalism by acting in an ethical manner, The” Code of Conduct and Ethics” and “Statement of Values” provide guide lines for police to adhere to when undertaking this role. Police must always act in an ethical manner throughout their role as a police officer. Everything a police officer does is under scrutiny from fellow officers, victims, witnesses and of course the public, which is why it crucial that police act in an ethically sound manner.

The “Code of Conduct and Ethics (CCE)” and “Statement of Values (SOV)” provides a framework in which the police are to operate. In this scenario the police have embraced the expectations from both the CCE and the SOV. The 3 main points of the CCE addressed in the scenario are: the officers “behaved honestly and in a way that upholds the values and the good reputation of the NSW police” and “acted with care and diligence”. The officers throughout the incident acted professionally, and made numerous decisions during the investigation some ethically correct and others which could have been dealt with differently.

One of the decisions made which I believe to be unethical was not to IPE the person of interest. Section 201(2)(c) of LEPRA clearly states an officer must inform a person of their name, place of duty and give evidence that they are police officers if not in uniform before exercising any power. Failure to abide by this legislation deems all powers that are exercised unlawful. Due to the officers failing to abide by this safeguard the arrest would be considered unlawful. This could possibly see the collapse of the case in court and see a crime go unpunished.

Another factor is that tunnel vision occurred when the officer in charge was questioning the witness at the scene. An example of the officers not thinking critically and letting tunnel vision take over is when the officer in charge broadcasted the description of the male wanted for the assault. At that stage the officers only assumed that an assault has occurred. Police also broadcasted a description of the accused over police radio, this was done without fully investigating and assuming that the witness was telling the truth.

Police should have reviewed the CCTV footage from the hotel to ascertain that an assault had occurred and the description of the accused was correct. It seemed to me that officers performed fairly well. They sufficiently investigated the matter and were able to arrest the suspect for further in It is easy for us to watch this scenario unfold on DVD and criticise the actions and decisions of the two officers. However when you are placed in real life situation you need to focus on what will be in the public’s best interest and what ethical decisions will need to be made.

It is important to remember that investigation is not a game with winners or losers it is a search for the truth based on the gathering of information in a fair and ethical manner. I believe that the Officers were able to provide a framework that best assisted them to the truth of the crime. In conclusion “Critical thinking” and the “Scientific Method of Investigation” are fundamental partners in criminal investigation. Together they form a “logical and scientific format” (Activity 6. 1) that enables an investigator to form logical conclusions based on the collected evidence.

Critical thinking allows for conclusions coming forth from a number of different perspectives. Together this way of thinking is important in investigations as it aides investigators in answering questions and reconstructing the past. Often police are placed in a situation that requires them to solve a crime or identify an offender who committed an offence. The fact that the community have placed police in that role means it is the police who are accountable for finding the truth, and this is the basis of investigation – for police to search for the truth.

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