Somebody call Patricia Arquette.
British police have been told that they should take seriously the suggestions of ‘psychics, witches and clairvoyants’ and others who claim to ‘possess extrasensory perception’ in missing persons investigations.
Under revised professional standards released for consultation this week, officers are told: “High-profile missing person investigations nearly always attract the interest of psychics and others, such as witches and clairvoyants, stating that they possess extrasensory perception. Any information received from psychics should be evaluated in the context of the case.”
Officers are however cautioned that information derived from readers of tarot cards should not “become a distraction to the overall investigation and search strategy unless it can be verified.”
The most famous psychic sleuth is probably Allison DuBois, 43, whose exploits inspired hit the U.S. TV series Medium, which ran from 2005-2011 and starred Arquette as a crime-solving clairvoyant.
Josh Loeb, of the online trade publication PoliceOracle, which first reported the new real-life advice, told The Daily Beast that although the guidance had raised some eyebrows, it was actually part of an attempt to create a system to deal with what has become an increasingly frequent event in missing persons cases—the intervention of ‘nutters’ (as police describe them in private) who claim to have evidence sourced from without the physical world.
“It has been talked about in the past,” said Loeb. “They do get approached by psychics claiming to have information and how should they deal with them?
“The point they are making is they shouldn’t automatically dismiss it—not least because although someone might say they have discovered this information by staring into their crystal ball, they might actually have heard it from someone down the pub. But what is slightly bizarre is that the advice also tells officers to take into account if the psychic has any ‘accredited successes.’ It’s hardly like these people go round with a certificate saying, ‘I am a qualified magician.’”
(A College of Policing spokesman has explained since the consultation document was published that ‘accredited success’ means the psychic “has a proven record of helping police in the past.”)
A world expert in the field of missing persons, Professor Nick Fyfe, the founding director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research and the author of several peer-reviewed papers on the subject, told The Daily Beast that he believed an important aspect of the new advice was about showing compassion to and not alienating desperate families.
“They have to treat families with compassion. If a missing relative has not been found, the family will clearly explore every avenue to find that person, even if that involves using psychics. It’s very difficult for police to dismiss that, they have to demonstrate compassion in what are very traumatic circumstances.
“Clearly the police would then have have to make an assessment about whether they would divert resources to investigating some claim about where the person might be.
“Often these kind of circumstances arise towards the end of an investigation, when police are starting to wind down the process, and they feel that every avenue has been exhausted.
“But families will often conduct their own search for missing relatives, and the family will continue to search, and use their own resources, and in those situations they may well make use of people who claim to have some kind of extrasensory powers.”
Often self-professed psychics charge the desperate families exorbitant fees, and the new guidance does caution that “the motive of the individual should always be ascertained, especially where financial gain is included.”
However, Dyfed-Powys Police in central Wales were criticized for wasting £20,000 investigating the “murder” of Carlos Assaf in 2009, after psychics claimed he had been strangled by gangsters who forced him to drink petrol and bleach.
A postmortem concluded he had died by suicide.
In 2006, 28 British forces told the journal Critical Thinking that they did not and have never used psychics.