A Decade of Homicide Debriefs: What has been learnt?

Fiona Brookman, Martyn Lloyd-Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Whilst recognised policies and structures are in place for reviews of homicide and other serious crime investigations, little guidance exists in relation to debriefs. Reviews tend to focus upon the failings of investigations, whilst debriefs are broader in remit, designed to capture a more holistic set of messages, both positive and negative, around investigative processes and practice. In this article we describe, analyse and consider the value of two distinct kinds of homicide debrief namely ‘hot’ debriefs and structured debriefs. Specifically, after describing both forms of debrief, we present the findings from our analysis of 102 debrief documents written in the decade ending 2014. A range of investigative challenges are identified that fall into three broad categories (i) case-specific challenges; (ii) organizational failures; (iii) extrinsic challenges. Good practice and innovation identified includes (i) effective flow of communication; (ii) effective work with outside agencies and specialists and (iii) innovative work to engage difficult-to-reach or hostile communities. The overall aim of the paper is to begin to unravel recurring themes (and where
relevant, changes over time) in terms of the challenges of homicide investigation
and areas for improvement as well as innovation and good practice. In addition,
the paper considers how best to disseminate the findings from debriefs in an
effective manner so that current and future SIOs can benefit from the lessons
learned in past investigations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-46
JournalThe Journal of Homicide and Major Incident Investigation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2015


  • homicide debrief
  • hot debriefs
  • structured debriefs
  • homicide investigation
  • investigative practice


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