Geographies of search: Exploring decision making, co-ordinating and collaborating in police investigations of missing persons cases

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Dundee

Principal Researcher

Amy Humphrey

Level of Research


Project Start Date

September 2014

Research Context

Building on past work examining police actions and responsibilities in missing persons investigations and recent analysis of the challenges faced by officers in these cases, this project will provide a comprehensive overview of how police officers search for hidden and lost people.

Specific focus will be placed on how officers make sense of the investigations, through norms and assumptions, the prevailing culture of their shift, team or force and in building narrative constructs or scenarios based on fact based and emotive, spatial and temporal information gathered. Decision-making processes will be examined across and within cases and examined in terms of scenarios or hypotheses formed by officers.

This outline will be updated over the next year, once scoping visits are complete and research aims are finalised.

Research Methodology

The research will focus on the analysis of closed case files, from a number of different forces, to cover different policies in use (e.g. 'Absent' category which is not used by Police Scotland); different technologies used (such as Airwave smart phones, availability of helicopter assistance), differing demographics and geographies (urban/rural, mountainous/coastal, prevalence of missing persons cases) & also areas where high profile cases or IPCC investigations have occurred recently.

Officers cited in the case files will be invited to interview or focus group discussions to further unpack the processes and decisions that progressed the case and to gain more in depth understanding of officers understandings of the events.

Pending clearance and individual force approval, live shadowing of missing persons cases, from call taken to either return or case marked 'enquiry exhausted' to further enrich understanding of the challenges faced by officers responding to these episodes and how they are overcome.

Interim reports and publications

‚ÄčNot available

Date due for completion

November 2019
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