top of page
  • Writer's pictureValentine Smith

Murder and Missing Persons - It is not just about ‘Reckonology[i]’

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

What sort of bones do you reckon these are?

In anything that is under investigation, hypothesis should not be opinion based on ‘Reckonlogy’. It should be developed from deep investigative thinking, some serious analysis of fact and thought, and the balance of probabilities.

What is Reckonology? You will not find it in a dictionary. However, from time to time most of us present our skills as a Reckonologist, with some amongst us worthy of a Master’s Degree (MR). We have all heard work colleagues’ family and associates make a hasty yet firm opinion of “I reckon”, regarding everything from politics to investigations, and product evaluation. Often, in order to strengthen an unsupported opinion, a ‘Reckonologist’ will use an expression of “They reckon”, which relates to everyone from media, politicians, police, or often to an anonymous un-substantiated source.

The problem with many ‘Reckonologists’ is that they will stand by their opinion even without substance, and will ‘cherry-pick’ supportive information, disregarding contrary information or evidence, or only conduct a cursory examination of any other hypothesis. This is often referred to as confirmation bias.

Sub-conscious ‘Reckonologists’ are those who espouse an opinion based on experiential bias, which has many deep-rooted origins of learning, often from marketing or flawed knowledge that is imbedded in the sub-conscious of us all.

I have been involved in investigations for over fifty years and engaged in reflective investigative thinking for over ten years. In recent times I have been mildly and mostly respectfully, cross-examined by serving and former police colleagues regarding comments regarding missing person cases I have made on Australian media. Most recently I have appeared on ‘Under Investigation with Liz Hayes’ on the Australian 9 television network, and on ‘The Project’ on Channel 10.

I have deep respect for current and former police investigators and first responders, who, often with limited time and/or with some, limited experience; are tasked to make decisions on unknowns or evolving incidents and sometimes expected to later stand in strong unity to defend those decisions no matter what. I have walked those halls of angst and uncertainty, and have felt the eyes of expectation from a community anticipating speedy resolution,professional action, and control, and comrades in blue who simultaneously expect loyalty and solidarity. It is sometimes a contrast of unenviable difficulty and strength in following the code and meeting the expectations of all. However, perhaps there is some contemporary thinking, especially at first response incidents, that could be considered.

In explanation I have presented probability and possibility as a consideration, certainly not to determine action regarding the standard of proof in a criminal investigation, but more to understand the strength of a hypothesis. A hypothesis based on structured professional judgement that may help determine the ranking of an investigative direction, which may in turn, lead to gathering evidence worthy of a criminal case ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard of proof. I have developed ‘The MiPerNet Score’ for this purpose. In essence, it is a probability matrix, a tool for identifying the worthiest direction of investigation in an incident.

Behind the scenes, inside the minds of investigative journalists and reviewing detectives it is not just ‘Reckonology’, it is knowing the answer to the questions of ‘What am I looking at’ and ‘What am I looking for’. Which in the end is about learning the truth and bringing some grief relief to families and victims, and fulfilling the expectations of self and community’.

[i] I first used ‘Reckonology and Reckonologist in 2012’ when I realised that I was well on my way to achieving a doctorate in the study and considered it time to seek an antidote, i.e. ‘understanding bias’. Written by Valentine Smith APM (Co-founder of Footprints in the Wilderness) - January 2023

2 comentários

Fekade Tesfaye
Fekade Tesfaye
22 de jan. de 2023

That's a great article! I have came across to this 'Confirmation bias' back to school where a case of Bloodstain pattern analysis in crime scene investigation at which both the expert witness of the defendants and prosecutors in court can came up with different analysis result despite of same crime scene given.

Valentine Smith
Valentine Smith
26 de jan. de 2023
Respondendo a

Thank you for your comment, which is gratefully received. A response to your LinkedIn message has also been sent.

bottom of page