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history of police detection

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Does anyone have any resources to recommend on the history of police detection and forensics?
I'm writing a mystery set in 1955 and I need to know how a police detective would conduct an investigation of a murder.
What was protocol? Photographing the body? taking fingerprints? would the body go to a morgue? for how long? That sort of thing.

#1 - July 26, 2013, 11:56 AM
Author of YA novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards (Red Adept Publishing, 2014)

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These two organizations may be able to help with some of your questions.  I think the biggest two changes in policing that have changed since the fifties have been the institution of the Miranda Law (you will have to look up the year) and forgive me I have no idea what city - but a major bank robbery where the robbers had automatic weapons and the police only had service revolvers (.38) and rifles.  A gun shop nearby help provide the police with automatic weapons.

That robbery made all police departments look into arming their police officers with better weapons, the development of SWAT teams, etc. 

I know most of this information from taking a civilian police academy course.  I still have the books, but they are stored because I have no bookcases. Sorry I am unable to look up this information.

#2 - July 26, 2013, 12:57 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

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I'm assuming you've done a google search for forensic science history.

You may be able to find policing manuals from the 1950s. I would start with your local police department or you could travel to one in a larger city (if you don't live in a large city, yourself).

You could also look for famous criminal cases that took place during the time of your story. You might be able to find information about forensics that were used.

Any policing textbook will give you the history of the police and may provide some insight into what procedures were like then. A criminalistics or forensics text will probably (although not necessarily) give you the history of those applications.

If you have a college or university where you live or relatively close that has a criminal justice program, you could go on their website and find whoever is teaching policing courses and send him or her an e-mail saying you're doing some research and asking for resources.

I teach criminology and criminal justice, but I'm not a policing expert and I'm now teaching only online so I don't have access to any academic resources other than the ones I use for my own subject expertise. My personal experience is that a criminal justice professor would not be annoyed at all if he or she was contacted by a writer doing research.
#3 - July 26, 2013, 04:03 PM
Young Henry and the Dragon (2011, Shenanigan Books)

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I imagine the size of the town/city would have a huge impact too
#4 - July 26, 2013, 08:30 PM

Thanks everyone for your help. I went to my local historical society and had little luck, but it turns out my County Sheriff might have some free time to talk to me and it was suggested he might let me look through some cases from the 1950s (squeee!).

I will check out those links.

You've all been swell.
#5 - July 27, 2013, 01:08 PM
Author of YA novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards (Red Adept Publishing, 2014)


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