The police procedural is one of the most popular, fastest growing mystery genres. With roots in detective fiction, the police procedural follows a team of police detectives (still with one central protagonist) as they use the tactics, tools, and routines of the force to solve an often heinous crime.
Read more below for interview with authors who write police procedurals, features on police procedurals, reviews of police procedural books, and common questions about the genre.
Common Police Procedural Questions
What are Police Procedurals?
The police procedural is a variant of the classic detective story. Here, a mystery (often a murder) is solved by police detectives or a similar, modern team (such as a K-9 unit, bomb squad, or forensic team).
Why is it called a “Police Procedural?”
The “procedural” refers to investigation, whereby police detectives follow specific departmental procedures while solving the crime. Typical procedures and routines might include: questioning informants, hunting down suspects, collecting evidence for use in a forensics lab, and more. This is in contrast to a hardboiled detective story wherein a private investigator uses his or her gut to solve a crime. In a police procedural the resources of the department are always combined with the police officer’s experience for full effect.
What are the elements of a Police Procedural?
As with a classic detective story, a police procedural goes through the stages of crime committed, investigation, solution. In the last phase, the perpetrator is either removed from society or a variation thereof (including resolutions where no perpetrator is caught). However, in a police procedural the focus is solidly on the investigation, with cops pushing through the difficult, dangerous, and fascinating elements of the job, usually as part of a team.
When is it not a Police Procedural?
Just because there are police involved doesn’t necessarily make the story a police procedural. The police wouldn’t normally be beat cops or some other police besides detectives. And they would need to be acting in an official capacity, otherwise the genre would probably belong to an amateur sleuth detective story.