Policing the past to police the future

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Abstract:

In the 32 years following 1966 more than 3200 people lost their lives in Northern Ireland. Over 1800 of these deaths are recorded as unsolved by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The families' perspective is different and in very few cases have all their queries have been resolved. This paper examines the creation of The Historical Enquiries Team (HET), a unique concept in world policing, which is an imaginative attempt to bring some form of resolution to families of victims of ‘The Troubles',1 by reviewing the deaths of their loved ones and seeking to answer questions that remain, for them unresolved. Modern police investigations are all supported by use of trained analytical staff, using bespoke technology to provide support and insight to senior detectives. The HET has invested heavily in analytical support, both in supporting the PSNI Analytical Department to develop and manage the Historical Enquiries Analytical Database (HEAD) and in the provision of dedicated, on site Analysts. The intention is that by using the latest analytical techniques, they assist in identifying potential suspects for individual cases, potential witnesses and linkages between cases through trends, description, ballistics, etc. They will also provide a holistic review of all cases related to the security situation during the period under review, in order to identify trends and methodology and thereby identifying the involvement of individuals, groups or organisations as potential suspects. The HEAD database, currently being refined, updated and tested, will be the dominant IT application and will underpin the collation, recording, retention and analytical functions of the HET review and re-investigation process. While it has useful facets in terms of administrative management, its primary use will be as an analytical tool.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13600860600699445

Affiliations: Police Service of Northern Ireland

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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