Enquiry and Detection

honeycomb

Enquiry and Detection

Introduction

A major world problem, widely acknowledged since the terror attacks of 11th September 2001 and particularly relevant in the light of current concerns about the quality of the intelligence basis for decision-making, is that we have become far more effective at amassing information than at making sense of it. Even when we already possess the evidence upon which intelligent decisions can be made, we often fail to identify, locate, marshal and interpret it appropriately. An over-emphasis on technology is accompanied by inadequate attention to its limitations, and to the abilities and limitations of human reasoning powers in interpreting evidence, so that the benefits that could be gained from a combination of sophisticated technology and human problem-solving skills go largely unrecognised.

Police procedure and training treat investigation and intelligence analysis as core activities, yet without subjecting them to any formal analysis, or considering that they could be susceptible to scientific study. There is little consideration of how evidence might best be discovered, analysed and presented to others as part of a reasoned argument, and no instruction is provided in the fundamental skills, competencies and intellectual processes required. There is lack of appreciation that we must first expect to observe evidence before we can recognize that it is missing. Our principal aim is to address and rectify some of these inadequacies, both in the specific context of Police and Intelligence work and more generally.

Questioning to Reduce Uncertainty

Investigation and intelligence analysis involve the discovery and testing of new lines of enquiry, hypotheses, evidence and arguments, as well as the linking of evidence to hypotheses. Discovery in its turn involves a number of activities: analysis, synthesis, questioning, reasoning, and composition and decomposition of facts, evidence and potential explanations. Unravelling the significant from the insignificant, assessing the credibility, relevance and weight of evidence, analysing the validity of conclusions, are all important for helping us discover new explanations for and improved understandings of matters of which we are in doubt. While all these activities involve creative acts, they also stand to benefit greatly from careful logical attention and analysis. Formal strategies can enhance our imaginative reasoning capabilities. Developing such strategies is a central focus of the project.

Questioning – broadly interpreted as a directed search for evidence – lies at the heart of the process. As appropriate questions are identified, asked and answered, the level of uncertainty about hypotheses of concern may be reduced to a degree where new conclusions and decisions can be made. Seeking and obtaining new evidence may allow us to eliminate or better discriminate between currently plausible alternative hypotheses, with implications both for the conclusions tentatively drawn and for the identification, pursuit and processing of further lines of enquiry.

Frequently a single question directed towards casting light on some ultimate proposition could be better replaced by a sequence of smaller questions. We might never be able to obtain evidence bearing fully and directly on the ultimate hypothesis, but by taking smaller investigative steps we may be able to approach steadily closer to it. Piecemeal and/or sequential enquiry also embody a valuable degree of elasticity, in that one flawed item of evidence need not be fatal to the final overall conclusion when the evidence is considered as a whole.

Questions can be selected, subdivided and sequenced (initially once and for all, or dynamically in the light of accruing information) in many ways, of which some will be more fruitful and informative than others. The logical processes required for such scheduling and processing will be identified and analysed, their implications for both formal and informal questioning procedures examined, and different strategies and forms of questioning explored and compared.

Date Title First Author
Publication Type
13/01/2006 Shoot to Kill? Bentham's Defence various
Other

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