Criminal investigation through the eye of the detective: technological innovation and tradition

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Abstract

Technological elements and scientific knowledge are steadily transforming both the traditional image of the detective and the nature of contemporary police work. However, despite the potential utility of scientific methods and new technologies in criminal investigations, there are many barriers surrounding their application. We explore these barriers through a qualitative and comprehensive methodology, utilising a set of semi-structured interviews and informal conversations with criminal investigators.

We use theoretical contributions from social studies of science and technology, surveillance studies and policing research to analyse how soft and hard forms of surveillance are applied in the practices of the Portuguese Criminal Investigation Police (Polícia Judiciária). The technological artefacts are both shaped by and shape how criminal investigators work. Consequently, it is necessary to explore how the collectives of human and non-human elements are constituted. By analysing the fusion of traditional methods of criminal investigation (hard surveillance) with new technologies of collection and use of information (soft surveillance) we see a hybrid figure of the contemporary detective emerging; a product of both the past and the present. In a context where innovation is sometimes constrained, traditional methods continue to endure. Nevertheless, the expansion of computerisation and police databases has had significant impact on how police information is collected and recorded.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-436
JournalSurveillance & Society
Volume13
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

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