A central flaw with police investigations

Just after I wrote about one big problem I’ve observed with cops — their hypervigilence — I read what follows in Anthony Trollope’s 1869 novel about pathological jealousy, He Knew He Was Right.

The jealous man, Louis Trevelyan, has hired an ex-cop, now a private investigator (the footnotes say this seemed to be the first time the term had been used), a dedicated gumshoe named Bozzle, to survey the actions of Trevelyan’s wife, Emily. Trevelyan suspects Emily may be having an affair — or at least may be allowing a family friend, whom Trevelyan hates, to pay decorous visits.

Bozzle repeatedly pushes the jealousy button in emotionally fragile Trevelyan by insinuating that, although he, Bozzle, had not personally seen letters going back and forth, it did not mean that there were not letters going back and forth. It only meant he hadn’t yet seen them.

Bozzle is on the case. Here is how Trollope describes his character:

Men whose business it is to detect hidden and secret things, are very apt to detect things which have never been done. What excuse can a detective make even to himself for his own existence if he can detect nothing? Mr Bozzle was an active-minded man, who gloried in detecting, and who, in the special spirit of his trade, had taught himself to believe that all around him were things secret and hidden, which would be within his power of unravelling if only the slightest clue were put in his hand. He lived by the crookednesses of people, and therefore was convinced that straight doings in the world were quite exceptional. Things dark and dishonest, fights fought and races run that they might be lost, plants and crosses, women false to their husbands, sons false to their fathers, daughters to their mothers, servants to their masters, affairs always secret, dark, foul, and fraudulent, were to him the normal condition of life. It was to be presumed that Mrs Trevelyan should continue to correspond with her lover…that everybody concerned should be steeped to the hips in lies and iniquity.

To search for and uncover damaging evidence at all costs — even when there is no damaging evidence — is the professional modus of cops, as well as paranoids. I presume if Bozzle existed today, he would be devoted to QAnon postings.

So not only did Anthony Trollope develop and install England’s post office boxes, he described cops perfectly.

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