Investigative Strategy: the application of strategic principles to criminal investigations

  • Michele Frisia


Strategy is a wide collection of ideas and insights that have been used since time immemorial to face the ‘fog of war’. In the last century the key concepts of strategy have moved into many other fields, such as economics and mathematics. The analysis presented in this paper applied the concepts of strategy to criminal investigations. In both fields a need exists to face and fight against a conscious opposition to win. In order to apply them to modern criminal investigations, the paper borrowed ideas from historical masters of strategy: Sun Tzu and Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara; von Clausewitz, Lawrence ‘of Arabia’ and Mao Zedong; John Boyd and Miyamoto Musashi; Hagakure, 36 Stratagems, but also the doctrine of special forces. The paper analyses how investigations are affected by ‘friction’ and lack of resource; how detectives could proficiently use knowledge of the antagonist, surprise, deceptions and stratagems; how speed, rhythm and timing, but also the adherence to principles of invisibility, irreversibility and completeness, could help to improve the results of criminal investigations. One of the aims of this paper is to show that the study of strategy could effectively increase the ability of investigators to solve cases. We hope that the paper will trigger a debate about the incorporation of strategic thinking into investigative practice and training.

How to Cite
Frisia, M. (2017). Investigative Strategy: the application of strategic principles to criminal investigations. European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin, (16), 99-117. Retrieved from