Investigator Impartiality and Objectivity

For the 2016 Wrongful Conviction Day, the Center for Prosecutor Integrity is highlighting the important role of investigators and detectives in collecting evidence that will determine the innocence or guilt of a suspect. Ethical codes require investigators to act in an impartial and honest manner:

  • International Association of Chiefs of Police: “The law enforcement officer shall be concerned equally in the prosecution of the wrong-doer and the defense of the innocent. He shall ascertain what constitutes evidence and shall present such evidence impartially and without malice.”
  • Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council: “The fundamental philosophical assumption upon which all CDITC policies are predicated is that the criminal defense investigator must be an impartial and objective seeker of truth.”
  • World Association of Detectives: “We will be faithful and diligent in carrying out assignments entrusted to us, and to determine the true facts and render honest, unbiased reports in reference thereto.”
  • National Council of Investigation and Security Services: “A member shall observe, and adhere to the precepts of honesty, integrity, and truthfulness.”
  • National Association of Legal Investigators: The investigator “Will make all reporting based upon truth and fact and will only express honest opinions based thereon”

Some investigators have embraced so-called “victim-centered” approaches that disregard ethical requirements to be neutral and fair. When investigators approach their work with a predetermined notion of guilt, wrongful convictions are likely to result.

The Center for Prosecutor Integrity has developed a two-page briefing sheet, “Investigator’s Role in Avoiding Wrongful Convictions,” which can be downloaded HERE.