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Cinderella and the symphony of criminal investigation


Dr Tariq Rustam

‘Guilty! sentenced to life imprisonment,’ pronounced the judge without any further thoughts. So raptured was he with the symphony played before him; all the cords so symphonically struck and all the movements so perfectly ordered one after the other. What nonsense! Are the judges listening to symphonies and decreeing thereupon? Yes! why not? They do, when the symphony of criminal investigation, written eloquently on the case file is played before them by the police and the prosecution, with all the melodies of evidence played in perfect harmony and descants of witnesses, forensic reports and exhibits garnishing it to entrancing excellence.

Well! More often than not, they acquit the accused, throwing away the file with remarks sounding like the cadence of drum played at the occasion of ejecting (disgracefully) a soldier from army. Why?  Because they like good music; compose a good musical symphony, win applause and get a conviction; produce a bad one and face the music, it is what it is.  The question persists! Despite knowing what the courts demands, why after all, we keep composing bad music unworthy of winning accolades and convictions and keep facing the music in the court room?  There are many reasons.

Criminal investigation is like composing a symphony or a piece of music. First you are inspired by some emotions, you write down your thoughts and then compose the symphony trying various movements, variations, repetitions and combinations of tunes on the instrument of your liking. In investigation symphony the quest for justice should be the fundamental inspiration of our investigating artist(IA). Until he is inspired by the craving for justice, he cannot create a symphony which can radiate melodies of truth and justice. Is the quest for justice our IAs primary inspiration while doing the investigation? It is inopportune that many of them are steered by motives other than justice.

A standard symphony is composed in four movements; so goes the investigation in similar number of steps or stages with a bit of overlapping. Crime scene is the first movement of our investigation symphony. Just like the first movement of a symphony sets the mood for the subsequent movements, the cords of finding, preserving, collecting, parceling and dispatching the evidence if struck with appropriate force and rhythm will lay the foundation for the subsequent stages of investigation. At this stage, like the brisk and lively first movement of symphony, the investigation has to be quick and exigent, lest some evidence is wasted.

After the lively and energetic first movement, the second one is usually slow and lyrical with lilting song like theme. Similar is the second stage of investigation; the investigation artist looks for bits and pieces of evidence in a cool and composed manner enjoying the flow of information. He evokes evidential tunes by hitting the keys of witnesses, possible connections and general public interviews. In the third movement expert reports come and the investigation artist compares them with various pieces of evidence collected and develop connections between them like the musician tries various combinations and the repetitions of the tunes to add substance and flavour to it.


Then comes the fourth rollicking movement and our IA confronts the accused with evidence with and give him a rollicking to assure himself of the veracity of the work done so far. The symphony is complete. He embellishes it with the notes of ultimate musicality and send to prosecution- the supposed virtuoso to remove any weak notes and fortify it with sublimities to touch the delicate heart of judge. Not impressed! What a boring dirge! Remarks the judge. What went wrong?

Unfortunately, our IAs are very poor at playing with the strings and keys. Many of them don’t know the art of playing the basic keys of what, where, when, who, why and how, the basic notes of the investigation symphony. Some of us may think this is too basic a concept and we cannot expect them of not knowing it. I suggest putting a basic definitional question to even experienced investigation officers. The answer will be at least disappointing if not out rightly shocking.For majority of them investigation means to go on the scene, pick up if anything is found there, record some statements, attach the site plan and write the conclusion in implacable terms as ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ with a revelational authority, on the basis of their informal knowledge without any evidence to connect the crime to the accused.

This is like thumping your eight fingers and thumbs on the black and white keys of piano indiscriminately, evoking a blare of juddering sounds and look at the audience for appreciation. Who will enjoy and be enamored by such kind of cacophony in the court and give us a favourable verdict?Just like in poetry, music and other art forms, new creations and compositions are presented before the maestros to make any corrections if required, every investigation is supposed to be seen over at every step and reviewed at the end by a supervisory officer before passing it on to the prosecution and court. Unluckily, the supervisors either don’t have the time or the requisite skills or they simply don’t bother to attend this important aspect of their responsibility.

Whereas, our IAs are not adequately skilled to compose a melodious symphony, the instruments available and the overall environment in which they work are not conducive either. The keys of our piano are either sticking or broken altogether. In worst shape is the ivory of finance. It emits an almost inaudible sound and the IA has to compensate this lack by tapping the tunes out of public resources. The keys of crime scene investigation tools are also in bad shape. The black and whites of the forensic reports are sometimes sticky enough that you have to strike them again and again to emit the tunes. The witness orchestra either refuse to play or emit false tunes.

Just like a symphony composer, an investigator also needs an environment in which he can work with focus and peace of mind. His environment is cluttered with a lot of junk and noise. Then he is not only a composer but he is also a firefighter. Here he is called to leave his piano andgo on patrolling for moral street sweeping; there he is ordered to perform the scarecrow function at pickets.  Time and again he has to dance to the tunes of rabble-rousers besides beating the security drum aroundvarious religious and political gatherings here and there throughout the year.Then our artist has so many symphonies to compose at a time; naturally it is not possible to maintain the concinnity.

The investigation is the princess of the policing which, in our country, has been relegated as Cinderella- an underling, an underfed scullion- always advised and admonished, never to be adored and admired but always laden with plethora of chores but at the same time expectedto compose a symphony as melodic as the 5th of Beethoven. This won’t happen until the under privileged, under moneyed and under actuated Cinderella rises to its rightful place in the royal house of policing. Make her the princess and then expect her to blossom into the belle of the ball. Give her acreative tranquil atmosphere so that when she tickles the ivories, the melodies so touch the heart of the judge that he cries in trance:

This is the best symphony ever composed

The hidden lies and truths wholly disclosed

No longer lurks any shadow of doubt

Justice done with fairness and imposed



Dr Tariq Rustam— The writer is a senior police officer. He can be reached at [email protected]