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Serving Survivors of Homicide Victims During Cold Case Investigations: A Guide for Developing a Law Enforcement Protocol

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2011
55 pages
This guide informs law enforcement agencies on how to develop an agency protocol on serving survivors of homicide victims during cold case investigations.
Cold case homicide investigations are about more than seeing a case solved, a conviction rendered, and justice meted out, as important as these are to law enforcement and survivors. The Best Practices Subcommittee of the Task Force "recommends in this guide that every Arizona law enforcement agency with a cold case homicide have a written cold case homicide protocol" and states that "cold case homicides are one of the most significant challenges facing law enforcement agencies nationwide." When the task force surveyed all police departments, county sheriff's offices, and tribal police departments in Arizona, only 9.4 percent of responding agencies reported having written protocols for the handling of cold case homicides. Improving the systemic processes of cold case homicide investigations is a critically important task for law enforcement. These processes provided include the non-technological aspects of investigations, such as, sensitivity to survivors' needs, the improvement of which will also improve law enforcement's investigatory outcomes in the solving of more cold cases. The information and recommendations outlined in this guide will inform law enforcement about establishing a protocol with the foundational tools necessary to more effectively work with survivors while better serving survivors' needs. This report lists 25 policy recommendations under the headings of law enforcement, victim needs, and future research. Data were developed from a literature review on the topic of homicide cold cases, and a survey of law enforcement agencies for information on existing cold case units. Appendixes A-F