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Police Narratives

  • Smith J
  • Smith J
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Police narrative construction is a formal story-telling process necessary to focus investigative strategy and to form the basis of a prosecution case file. The narrative tells the story of the crime; what happened and why it happened. For the police the crime narrative must achieve a certain end, it must result in a successful prosecution and conviction, it must be plausible and believable, it must be supported by the evidence and it must convince a jury to convict. The police narrative will also be disseminated via the court proceedings, the press and often the wider media as an authoritative and privileged account of what happened and why. Innes argues that narratives constructed by police officers will be organized to meet the demands of the legal process and will ‘tie people, places, objects and phenomena together in a plausible chronology’ (2002:682). Interestingly he also notes that investigators will ensure that they tell ‘the right kind of story’ and quotes one officer as saying: ‘Juries are not experts…if you can show them quite clearly how the murder happened and provide an indication of why it happened, then that is extremely effective in getting a result’ (2002:684). The importance of this approach is reflected in the research of Hastie (2003) and Hastie et al. (1983) who report that the ‘story model’, or assembling evidence into a coherent narrative, is the most widely adopted approach in jury decision making (reported in Devine et al. 2001:625).




Smith, J. M., & Smith, J. M. (2010). Police Narratives. In Relating Rape and Murder (pp. 115–150). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

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