Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Working on Crime: Individual and Team Management of Knowledge for Decision Making in the Initial Investigative Process

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posted on 2021-11-11, 21:40 authored by Gordon, Margaret Florence

Every police agency needs to know how a productive environment for investigators working on crime, based on an effective investigative knowledge-management system, may best be provided. In order to contribute understanding for that purpose, this research examines three strands of the theme of working on crime that are entailed in the initial stages of an enquiry: the nature of the investigative process; investigative teamwork, and the individual and team management of knowledge. It is contended that the initial investigative process requires speedy and effective use of knowledge from four main sources: from objects and scenes, from people, from investigators' own experience, and from knowledge-management systems. The management of this knowledge for decision making in the initial stages of a police investigation of a crime is essentially a process of intuitive pattern-making ahead of verification. It is both internalised and manifest, and sited within the prevailing culture, undertaken by an individual investigator upon the explicit, implicit and unknown facts available to him or her, thus creating a continuing, unselfconscious, productive interplay between the skills of one and the complexity of the other. This process takes place within a subtle and multi-layered environment, the 'investigative entity'. In order to advance understanding of the process in its environment, it was necessary first to conceptualise a new model of this 'investigative entity'. The model illuminates the complexity of the investigative task, shows the centrality of individual investigators, and their skills, to the process of investigation, and emphasises the interrogative interface of the practitioner and the decision making process with the architecture of knowledge. Classical theories and practices of decision making are discussed, amplified with material on the intuition and analytic processes which underlie the model, the particular need for knowledge in investigative decision making, and the role of investigative knowledge-management systems as tools for intuition. The role played by official knowledge-management systems in the investigative entity is delineated, but emphasis centres on the power and utility of the individual investigator's tacit knowledge and skills. However, investigative work requires that investigators must often work in teams, where for success, a supportive culture for individuals' intuitive decision making needs to be provided. The thesis examines ways in which investigative teams may be viewed, and establishes a list of criteria for identifying the nature of investigative teams. The New Zealand Police provides the locus for examining the potency and relevance of the investigative entity model, both for individual investigators and for teams, and the actual use of police knowledge-management systems by investigators. Through interviews, observation and discussion a picture takes shape of investigators managing knowledge, both as vigorously competent individuals, and in concert with others. This empirical vignette sheds light on how investigative decision making in the initial stages of an incident takes place in practice. To conclude, guidelines for providing the optimal conditions and knowledge-management systems for investigators are suggested, with the responsibility for doing so laid upon the agency and the government.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Public Policy

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Government


Wolf, Amanda