What is keen intuition


"Now tell me, Commissioner, why did you interrogate the man who was convicted as a murderer again at all? The guy was not one of the inner circle of suspects." "I'm not sure, boss. There was such a feeling. Something told me that something was wrong with the man."

Crime fans are fascinated by law enforcement officers who have a reliable "gut feeling", an ingenious "sixth sense" or an unmistakable "nose". But how does it look in reality? What role does intuition play in criminologists and in rational police work?

Indeed, there are numerous documented cases where crimes have been frustrated or solved based on the intuition of seasoned police officers. Be it the drug investigator at the airport who repeatedly successfully fishes drug couriers out of thousands of air travelers, or the patrol officer who, following a suspicion, stops a vehicle and tracks down a wanted criminal.

Intuition is as important as the use of the most modern technical aids

Dr. Christiane Lentjes Meili, head of the Zurich criminal police, attaches great importance to intuition. She affirmed: "At least as important as the use of the most modern technical aids is the criminalist's intuition. Their tactical skills and their ability to draw the right conclusions from facts."

The initial gut feeling, the immediate suspicion, the perceived comprehension of the situation, is usually accompanied by thought processes that can be assigned to understanding and reason. Gerd Schmelz, professor of forensic science at the Hessian University for Police and Administration (HfPV) in Wiesbaden, confirms: "The very own criminalistic thinking and acting primarily has to do with logical, analytical thinking." Before working as a university professor, Schmelz himself worked as a detective for 21 years. As a former detective director and head of various special commissions (homicides, gang crime), he knows everyday police work and investigative practice inside out. He also admits: "There are those who have a nose for it. There are colleagues who drive out, find a situation and intuitively feel that something is wrong here."

Intuition is based on experience

Where does this ability come from? Is it possible to learn this kind of automatic action that lets us do the right thing? Prof. Schmelz does not believe in it: “Intuition is based on experience and is nurtured from experience. Experienced colleagues often have the ability, beyond all analytical approaches, to create suspicion on the basis of feelings. These are people who have a large portion of thinking skills, abstract thinking skills and creativity. You have to consider the possibility realistic that something can be that actually does not actually appear that way. In my opinion, you cannot learn this. For me, it takes a certain disposition. "

Such a disposition, namely the ability to comprehend a person's characteristics and emotions in a complex manner in fractions of a second, was experienced by Prof. Schmelz in an interrogator: “The colleague had never heard of interrogation theory and interrogation methods. And yet he was able to intuitively establish contact with everyone - whether drug addict, white-collar criminal or violent criminal. He started talking to everyone and achieved optimal results from a police point of view. ”Psychologists also speak of intuitive empathy here.

Intuition makes the almost incomprehensible appear possible

Most often, one encounters intuition in criminal work, the professor instills in his students, "in the form of a very subtly presented, often unfounded hypothesis with a very high degree of abstraction". To put it more simply: Intuition makes the almost incomprehensible appear possible. Especially in very complex, unusual and / or unstructured cases, intuition can help you a bit. The correctness of a suspicion or a decision often only becomes apparent in retrospect.

At the same time, Prof. Schmelz warns that one should not overestimate the role of intuition in police work. Ultimately, every initial suspicion must be corroborated by evidence and the perpetrator must be proven as conclusively as possible. One thing is certain: no public prosecutor will order a house search solely on the basis of an officer’s gut feeling, no matter how convinced they are that there is "something wrong" with someone.

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