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Policing the past: cold case studies, forensic evidence and retroactive social control

Innes, Martin ORCID: and Clarke, Alan 2009. Policing the past: cold case studies, forensic evidence and retroactive social control. British Journal of Sociology 60 (3) , pp. 543-563. 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2009.01255.x

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In this article an empirically grounded study of the police practices used when conducting cold case reviews of unsolved homicides is used to illuminate the key features of what is termed ‘retroactive social control’. It is suggested that this mode of social control, that works by placing past events under new descriptions, is an increasingly important feature of how social control is being imagined and delivered, and is predicated upon the capacity to de-stabilize and re-write previous official definitions of a situation. Retroactive social control it is posited encompasses two inter-twined dimensions: the social control of collective memory, in terms of what is remembered and how; and social control through memory, wherein the shaping of the past influences the enactment of control in the present. The focus upon police cold case reviews suggests how forensic evidence and new investigative technologies have played an important role in shaping the development of these innovative aspects of contemporary policing. As such, the empirical focus illuminates a broader trend relating to how developments in science and technology are affording new possibilities in the ways that social control is conceptualized and conducted.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Retroactive social control; cold case reviews; forensic science; policing
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 0007-1315
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2022 10:08

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