‘Snitches get stitches’: US homicide detectives' ethics and morals in action

Westmarland, Louise (2013). ‘Snitches get stitches’: US homicide detectives' ethics and morals in action. Policing & Society, 23(3) pp. 311–327.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2013.784313


This paper draws upon evidence from a short but intensive period of ethnographic fieldwork with a specialist homicide squad in a large US city. A range of homicides were observed during the study, and the discussion that follows describes a number of cases in depth and the difficulties the detectives experience in obtaining evidence from witnesses who may be frightened or unwilling to help them. The way they regard these problems and lack of cooperation, and the techniques they use to obtain information or confessions from suspects are explored. To analyse these problems, the paper reflects upon the ‘ruses’ detectives were observed to use in their attempts to obtain confessions and the way they rationalise these methods in terms of their personal and professional ethics.

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