How to Convince Police to Reopen a Case

Part 1: Finding New Evidence

Step 1: Gather basic information about the crime

In order to fully educate yourself about the crime, you first will need to identify basic facts that will allow you to look further into the matter. People with whom you want to discuss the case are more likely to remember it if you can accurately describe the facts of the case. For instance, you should know:

  • The full name of the victim or victims
  • Other identifying information about the victim, such as date of birth, approximate age, social security number, and physical description
  • The location of the crime
  • The date on which the crime occurred
  • How the crime was carried out
  • Contact information for all law enforcement agencies that worked on the case in the past
  • Name and contact information for any police officers or detectives who worked on the case in the past
  • Case numbers that originally were assigned to the case
  • The date of the last contact that you had with any law enforcement agency about the case, and the person with whom you spoke

Step 2: Go back through all the case notes and evidence to which you have access

Look for things that might have been missed or appear to have been tampered with or doctored. If you want a case reopened because you believe that the police were corrupt or forced a confession, you’ll need evidence of this. Also, talk to as many relevant witnesses as you’re able to contact and who are willing to testify.

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Step 3: Talk to the victim in the case

Get good information from that person about why he or she believes that the case should be reopened. Speaking with the victim may enable you to obtain more information and evidence to support the victim’s wishes.

Step 4: Consider those who have committed more recent crimes

It is no surprise that people who commit crimes and don’t get caught will continue to commit crimes. Additionally, people who never get caught often will eventually brag to other criminals about their crimes, especially when incarcerated. It may be worth taking a look at currently incarcerated individuals or suspects of other crimes to see if these more current crimes resemble your old case in any way.

Step 5: Assemble your new evidence

One of the easiest ways to get a case reopened is to discover new evidence that wasn’t available at the time the case was investigated or closed. It will be much harder to convince police that a case is worth reopening if you don’t have this. DNA is an often-used element of new evidence these days that gets some cases reopened because genetic testing abilities are much more advanced than they used to be. National fingerprint databases also exist now that did not exist in the past. They may serve as a comparison point for fingerprints taken in an old case.

Part 2: Speaking with Police

Step 1: Make an appointment with the police officer assigned to the case

Preferably, try to arrange to speak with a senior or veteran police officer regarding the matter. Be careful that your inquiry doesn’t fall between the cracks just because you’re talking to a rookie who is too wet behind the ears to understand what is needed.

Step 2: Be polite

It is not likely to help persuade police to reopen an old case if you are rude, demanding, or insulting about the work that was previously done on the case. While there is nothing wrong with being persuasive, and even a bit insistent, putting down the officer who handled the case is unlikely to win you any friends.

Step 3: Be organized

Have your argument ready and completely outlined before your appointment. If you can present a rational and well-organized argument, you will have a better chance of getting the case reopened.

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Step 4: Explain your relationship to the case

Your argument to reopen the case may be more compelling if you have a personal interest in the case. If you are the victim, or a close relative to the victim, it will be easier to explain to police why you want the old case reopened. This also might be the case if you are a former roommate, friend, or co-worker of the victim. This relationship will give you more credibility in arguing to reopen the case.

Step 5: Ask how the agency handles cold cases

Do they regularly publicize cold cases and request tips from the public? Do they have a blog or Facebook page that keeps the public aware about unsolved cases? Some cities and towns have made efforts to raise awareness about cold cases by regularly posting facts about them online and reminding the public that certain cases remain unsolved.

Step 6: Leave your contact information with police

It is likely that the officer to whom you speak will ask you to leave detailed contact information with him or her after your appointment. Be prepared to give contact information at the end of your appointment where you easily can be reached.

Step 7: Keep a written record of your appointment

You should take notes during your appointment with the police officer so that you have an accurate record of what you discussed. This will be helpful to you in the future if you want to make further contact with that law enforcement agency.

Part 3: Getting Help

Step 1: Get a good lawyer or advocate

If you don’t feel that you can address an old case or ask to get it reopened alone, get some legal advice. Talk to someone who has a good understanding of the laws and policies surrounding the reopening of police cases to guide you. You might be able to get legal assistance in some circumstances, depending on where you reside and the reasons that you wish to reopen the case.

Step 2: Hire a private investigator

If you feel that more evidence exists or that an investigation of a crime was not done properly, you may have success in getting a private investigator to look more closely into the matter. Some private investigators may be willing to put more time and effort into an investigation, even regarding an older case, simply because they have the resources to do so. All too often, police officers are stretched thin, and other crimes may take priority over the case in which you are interested.

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Step 3: Speak with the police officers who worked on the original case

Especially if a significant amount of time has passed since the crime occurred, officers or detectives may have retired. Contact those officers if possible and try to get their views on the case.

Step 4: Contact the media

Getting a newspaper television reporter interested in the case is a good way to exert some pressure on local authorities. A well-written story in the newspaper or local television can renew public interest in a case and cause the authorities to take a second look at an old case or evidence that may pertain to it.

Step 5: Talk to your local senator, representative, or governor’s office

Bringing political pressure to bear can have an important impact on the police decision to reopen a case. Taking this step may also result in you getting the attention of a police officer or detective who has more influence on the decision to reopen old cases.


Convincing the police to reopen a case requires diligence, organization, and perseverance. By following the steps outlined above, you can increase your chances of success in reopening a closed or cold case. Remember to gather new evidence, speak with the police respectfully and professionally, and seek help from legal professionals or private investigators if needed. Utilizing all available resources and maintaining a determined approach can make a significant difference in reopening a case and seeking justice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How long does it typically take to convince the police to reopen a case?

The time it takes to convince the police to reopen a case can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the case, the availability of new evidence, and the willingness of law enforcement officials to reconsider. In some cases, it may take several months or even years of persistent effort.

2. What if I don’t have access to new evidence?

While having new evidence can significantly strengthen your case for reopening, it’s still possible to persuade the police without it. Focus on presenting a compelling argument based on the merits of the case, any procedural errors or inconsistencies in the original investigation, and the significance of seeking justice for the victim.

3. Can I reopen a case if I’m not directly involved or related to the victim?

Yes, you can still advocate for the reopening of a case even if you’re not directly involved or related to the victim. However, having a personal connection to the case, such as being a friend, former roommate, or co-worker of the victim, can lend credibility to your efforts.

4. What if the police refuse to reopen the case?

If the police refuse to reopen the case despite your efforts, you may consider seeking assistance from legal professionals, advocacy groups, or the media. Additionally, you can continue to gather new evidence or information that may eventually compel law enforcement to reconsider their decision.

5. Are there any legal implications of reopening a case?

Reopening a case does not necessarily imply legal action or prosecution. It simply means that law enforcement will review the case with fresh eyes and potentially pursue further investigation. However, if new evidence or developments arise, it could lead to legal proceedings depending on the nature of the case and applicable laws.

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