Enhancing the Survivor-Investigator
Gregg Marcantel
Cabinet Secretary
New Mexico Corrections Department
Opening Discussion
What are the typical goals and objectives for a
survivor during a criminal investigation?
What are the typical goals and objectives for
the detective during a complex criminal
During the investigation and adjudication of a
criminal offense, who is the focus?
What are the obvious obstacles that typically
exist between a criminal investigator and
crime survivors?
The Realities of Our Roles
1. More than even the successful
conclusion of the investigation,
a survivor or victim of crime
seeks the dignity of engagement.
 As a victim of crime, we feel
violated and lack a sense of
control in our life.
 To feel dignity, we must feel
as though we matter!
The Realities of Our Roles
2. The detective, having generally
acquired some level of law
enforcement experience before
attaining the position, is
employed in a profession in
which people look to he/she for
answers…to gain control of
matters when chaos looms.
 Running toward danger when
everyone else has the luxury
of running away from it!
The Detective
The detective who consistently solves
the most difficult and bizarre cases is
often said to be “lucky”.
While luck often plays a role, luck is
equally made.
The “lucky” detective often possesses,
in addition to adequate preparation,
other qualities.
Essential Qualities of a Successful Detective
High degree of self-discipline
It’s not the presence or absence of others that
regulate successful investigators, rather
internalized control.
Alert, fastidious attention to detail.
Sound, logical reasoning for systematic inquiry
The fact that a particular step(s) during
investigation are rarely productive does not mean
they should be omitted.
Objectivity and freedom from pre-conceived
The successful detective is a hunter…a predator!
The Realities of Our Roles
3. The criminal justice system is a
lonely place for survivors and
victims of crime.
A void exists between the time
the matter is being investigated
and the adjudication, as it
relates to advocacy services.
The system is geared for an
emphasis upon the offender and
often the victim’s needs and
perspectives is lost.
The History of Policing
The Professional Policing Era and
Its Effects on Crime Victim
Three Eras of Policing in America
The Political Era (1840-1930)
The Reform Era (1930-1980)
The Community Era (1980 -Present)
The Political Era
The Political Era was characterized by:
Police authority drawn from politicians and law
A broad range of social service functions
Decentralized organization
An intimate relationship with the community
Extensive use of foot patrol
Corruption was common based on
close the ties between police and
The Spoils System- (Motto: “To the victor goes the
spoils”) Resulted in the political interference with
police as prevailing political party sought immunity
and special privilege with police.
The Reform Era
The Reform Era resulted from a reaction to the
corruption of Political Era and was characterized
Police authority drawn from law and professionalism
Crime control as a primary function
Centralized and efficient organization
A professional remoteness from the community
Preventative motorized patrol and rapid response to
A.O. Wilson was considered the main architect of
the Reform Era and coined a style of policing
known as the Professional Model that followed the
characterizations of the Reform Era.
The Community Era
Following changes in corporate America, many law
enforcement agencies became customer-oriented,
viewing citizens as consumers of police services. Law
enforcement during the Community Era is characterized
Police authority drawn from community support
Law and professionalism
A broad range of social service functions, including crime
Decentralized organization with greater authority provided
to line officers
An intimate relationship with the community
The use of foot patrol
A problem-solving approach
Perceptions are Realities
Based on the often differing
experiences and perspectives for
the detective and the survivor, a
number of considerations should
be appreciated.
The Burden of Proof
The Rules of Evidence
The nature of our reasoning as
human beings.
The Rules of Evidence
Anything can be evidence. Therefore it becomes important
to understand that anything is admissible as evidence unless
there is some rule to exclude it.
Admissible under the
NM Rules of Evidence
All of the evidence as we know it
The Burden of Proof
We must remember the difference between
Probable Cause and Proof Beyond a Reasonable
Proof Continuum
Probable Cause 33.3%
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt 89.9%
The General Nature of Human Reasoning
From the crime victim to the street cop, to the
prosecutor and defense attorneys, to the judge
and individual juror, the entire criminal justice
system is influenced by human reasoning.
Based on the critical role of decisions made in
the courtroom, interest in forensic and legal
issues has stimulated a focus on the processes
of reasoning by judicial decision-makers.
A working knowledge of the most common
human reasoning errors may also allow both
the detective and the survivor to avoid overpersonalizing issues that arise between their
relationship .
Confirmation Bias
(Positive and Negative Evidence)
Perhaps the most widely accepted error
revealed in research associated with human
reasoning is the notion that human beings have
an inclination to seek information considered
consistent with their current beliefs and
consideration of potentially falsifying evidence.
Numerous laboratory experiments reveal that study
participants often fail to discover general rules when
required to seek relevant evidence, based on a general
tendency to adopt strategies designed to confirm rather
than dispute their hypotheses.
We are at greatest risk of falling prey to this
reasoning error when we are overwhelmed and
Confirmation Bias and
the Survivor/Detective Relationship
Mock jury research has investigated the affect of
our preconceptions of legal principles on decisions
made within the criminal justice system. More
recent and relevant research has revealed most
citizens to report naïve descriptions of the elements
of crimes such as robbery and kidnapping that were
often inconsistent with the definitive legal elements
of these crimes.
Our Take Away
As the result of an inaccurate appreciation of the elements of a crime
in question, we may be inclined to attach more significance to
evidence in support of our own notions of the what constitutes the
In instances whereby the definitive legal elements of a crime are in
strong contrast to our preconceived notions, bias may then swing
toward conflict between the detective and the survivor.
Fundamental Attribution Error
Examination of the defendant’s intent to
commit the criminal act in question will be
the fundamental basis of inquiry of the
criminal justice system. When attempting
to probe evidence of possible guilt of an
individual, inquiries generally focus on why
the defendant may have committed the
illegal act.
Judgments regarding why individuals acted
in a certain way are often referred to in
psychological research as attributions.
Dispositional and Situational
Dispositional attributions are defined as
judgments that refer to relatively stable
characteristics of the individual whose
behavior is described in the attribution.
On the other hand, situational
attributions are defined as judgments that
are based on the particular circumstances
of the situation at the time the behavior
Fundamental Attribution Error and
the Survivor/Detective Relationship
A personal example of Fundamental
Attribution Error
When considering decisions and actions of
either the investigator or the survivor, might
we then be predisposed to assigning our
conclusion about the character (rather than
the situation) when we don’t see things in
the same way?
Hindsight Bias
The defendant’s actions are likely to be closely
examined by surviving family and key criminal
justice decision-makers.
Additionally, the actions of law enforcement
and witnesses will be a likely source of interest
by these same folks.
In both criminal and civil legal settings,
decisions are often made concerning the degree
by which the behavior or actions of an
individual or group may have been justified,
through a historical view of the event in
Hindsight Bias and the Courtroom
There are many research examples that tend to
illustrate the effect of outcome knowledge on criminal
justice decisions.
In the study scenario, law enforcement personnel had been provided information
regarding criminal activity at a specific location. Upon arrival to the location in
question, the suspected perpetrator of the criminal activity refused the
investigating officers access onto the property. Based on forced entry by the
investigating officers, the property in question was damaged.
The experiment included three groups of study participants that were organized
individually as mock juries with the responsibility of deciding whether or not law
enforcement was responsible for the sustained damage to the property.
The first juror group was provided a positive outcome, in that the investigating
officers had discovered evidence supporting illegal activity.
The second juror group was provided a negative outcome, whereby no evidence of
illegal activity was detected by the investigating officers.
The third juror group was provided no information relating to the outcome of the
law enforcement investigation following the forced entry onto the property.
Hindsight Bias and the
Survivor/Investigator Relationship
The investigator’s commitment to a case based on
previous choices made by the victim.
Low risk lifestyle
High risk lifestyle
The survivor’s disadvantage of hindsight.
Survivor guilt?
The Solutions?
Trust and Transparency
The relationship between the
detective and the survivor is
complex and seeks to navigate
safely through high stakes issues,
differing perceptions, and strong
•The relationship demands
•Once trust is breached, we must
expect (not be surprised by) a
compromise of the relationship.
Trust and Communication
The single greatest barrier in communication may be our
assumptions that it is occurring!
Based upon the complexities that define the
survivor/detective relationship, there can be no such thing
as over-communication.
The root cause of many, if not
most of human problems lies
in how people behave when
dealing with high stakes,
emotional issues.
High Stakes
The Reality?
When the stakes are high…when our perspectives
vary…when emotions start to run strong, even
casual communication can transform into crucial
Ironically, the more crucial our communication
may be, the less likely we are to handle it well.
The consequences for either avoiding crucial
communication or fouling it up for the detective or
survivor are severe.
When we fail to communicate, every aspect of
each of the lives of the detective or survivor can
be affected.
The good news? As we learn how to step up to
the crucial communication required for this
relationship, virtually every other domain of our
lives will be positively influenced.
So how do we typically handle the necessary
critical communication required for a healthy
detective/survivor relationship?
In truth, when we face difficult
conversations, we can do one of
three things:
We avoid them;
We can face them but handle them
poorly, or;
We can face them and handle them
The Audacious Claim
Strong detective/survivor
relationships…for that matter, strong
careers, strong organizations, even
strong communities all draw from the
same source of power – an ability to
talk openly about high stakes,
emotional, and controversial topics.
The Crucial Communication Take Aways
for the Detective and Survivor
At the heart of almost all the
problems I’ve experienced in my
relationships with survivors lie
crucial communication that I was
either not having or not holding
The Fool’s Choice
The mistake most of us make when
contemplating unpleasant but
crucial conversations is we believe
that we have to choose between
telling the difficult truth and
keeping the relationship together.
When it comes to risky
conversations, skilled people find a
way to get the relevant information
out in the open.
At the core of every successful
conversation lies a free flow of
To put a label on this particular
talent – it is called DIALOGUE
Pools of Meaning
Each of us enters the investigation in different ways.
The detective chooses to; while;
The survivor more often does not.
At the intersection that the detective and survivor
meet, each enters the relationship and any
communication to follow with their own feelings,
biases, theories, and experiences relating to the
This unique combination of thoughts and feelings
make up the individual pools of meaning for the
detective and survivor each.
Our pools of meaning not only informs us but our
every action.
But remember, when the detective and survivor
enter the relationship, they DON’T share the same
pools of meaning
We must remind ourselves that our conclusions are
subjective. When we feel strongly about matters, or
conclusions feel like fact, but they’re not.
People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to
make it safe for everyone to add their own meaning
to a shared pool – even when at first glance one or
the other may be at odds with the idea or belief.
As a shared pool of meaning grows, it helps both
the detective and survivor in 2 primary ways:
As each are exposed to more relevant
information, better choices are made and trust is
In a very real sense, the shared pool of meaning is
a measure of the IQ for the detective and survivor.
Since the meaning is shared, both the detective
and survivor willingly act on whatever decisions
are made in the case – with both unity and
Focus on the Heart
Your own heart, regardless which role you are in.
If you can’t get yourself right, you’ll have a hard
time getting the relationship right.
When our relationships become strained, the
problem is NOT that our behavior degenerates, it’s
that our motives do!
Starting with the heart means that we start and
maintain the detective/survivor relationship with
the right motives and stay focused, avoiding the
Fool’s Choice, no matter how difficult matters may
What do we want out of the relationship?
What do we NOT want out of the relationship?
A Personal Conclusion
Considering my professional experiences, when I think of the
successful detective/survivor relationship, I think of the
families of Kevin Shirley, Matthew Hunt, and Luis
Garcia…Jim and Rita McGrane.
I think of what their attitudes have taught me more than the
work itself.
I think of the blessing and opportunity to have walked along
side them to make a difference doing something important.
These relationships didn’t began the moment my work on their
case began…it began with heart and attitude.
The relationships were sustained by the mutual desire to lift one
another up…the desire to add value to each other .
When the case was completed, we were stronger and more
successful human beings than had we been in the race alone.
My observation?
The strength of my heart is as important than the strength
of my work skill.