Criminal Investigations

Credited for establishing the first forensic science laboratory at Lyons, France in 1910 was Edmond Locard, who introduced the philosophy that every criminal leaves physical evidence at the crime scene which can be used to connect to him to the crime. This led to the establishment of police laboratories in Europe, the United States and other parts of the world. The United States had its first crime laboratory in 1923 at the Los Angeles Police Department.

The forensic field grew from purely police-capable deductive reasoning into more technical and specialized aspects that required scientific know-how and training. By the 1930’s, chemical examination laboratories and fingerprint bureaus became standard in most police departments. In 1932, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inaugurated also its own which became world renowned over the years. From crime laboratories, came the development of forensic laboratories.

But the significant development in the field of forensic science took place in the year 1966 with the creation of Central Research establishment in Aldermaston, England, considered the first of its kind in the world dedicated to performing basic research and quality control in forensic science. The birth of computer technology greatly simplified tasks that were once considered to be very complicated. In 1967, the FBI inaugurated the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the first national law enforcement computing center that maintains a national filing system on wanted persons and stolen vehicles, weapons, and other items of value.

The large-scale computerization of U. S. police departments began in the 1970s which include computer-assisted dispatch (CAD), management information systems, centralized call collection using three-digit phone numbers (911), and centralized integrated dispatching of police, fire, and medical services for large metropolitan areas. As the years progressed, the use of computers gained wider and more sophisticated applications in police work to include crime investigations and in mapping and analyzing crime patterns.

In 1999 came another scientific breakthrough in criminal identification with the development of the “Farwell Brain Fingerprinting” technique. The brainchild of Dr. Lawrence Farwell, the technique is a computer-based method of identifying criminals by measuring brain-wave responses to viewing relevant pictures. Scientific Changes in Forensic Science The detection and analysis of poisons was the first forensic technique to be developed using scientific methods. This was followed by the recognition that fingerprints were unique to every individual. Then there was the methodical study of firearms called the science of ballistics.

Dr. Lee, in an interview, narrated the growth and development of forensic applications in criminal investigations (Kanable, 2005 ). He said that in the 1960s, the forensic field basically relied on identification methods doing fingerprinting crime scene photography, drug identification, chemical tests or thin layer chromatography, blood testing, ABO typing and ballistic and document examination. There were very few police departments equipped with crime laboratories at that time so police basically used wet chemistry until the 1970s when the war against drugs brought federal funding to law enforcement laboratories.

With the drug work, police started to have some instrumentation including gas chromatography (GC) analysis. Serologists in the 1970s started looking at precise ABO typing and other isoenzyme analysis methods. Meanwhile, the significant increase in “serial” type of killings which started in the mid-1970s averaging around more than 4,000 cases per year led to the development of “psychological profiling” techniques in the 1980s and of DNA profiling in 1984. The introduction of DNA typing significantly revolutionized forensic science and the ability of law enforcement to match perpetrators with crime scenes.

The role of the medical examiner has become more important as understanding of the human body has increased and blood typing and DNA analysis have succeeded in positively identifying a growing number of criminals. Significantly, the reliability of DNA evidence was upheld by the National Academy of Sciences only much later in 1996. Science and technology will expectedly be leading many of the most important policing activities including the day-to-day police work of the future. The role to be played by science and technology is therefore being put forward as an integral part of law enforcement’s policing in the future.

Similarly, the field of forensic science’s progress will largely be dictated by new technological developments but the age-old criteria shall remain important in any selection of new technologies. It still must satisfy the requisites of durability, versatility, reliability, convenience to operate, ability to meet national standards and economic viability (Kanable 2005). References: Butler, J. Forensic DNA Typing: Biology, Technology, and Genetics of STR Markers, 2nd Ed. , Academic Press: Elsevier, New York. Kaye, B. H.

(1995) Science and the detective. Selected reading in forensic science, VCH, Verlagsgessellschaft, Weinheim, Germany. Kanable, R. (July 2005) Modern forensic science today and tomorrow: An interview with Dr. Henry Lee. Retrieved on June 16, 2009 from http://www. officer. com/print/Law-Enforcement-Technology/Modern-Forensic-Science-Today-and-Tomorrow/1$25192 Rogers, M. K. & Seigfried, K. (2004) The future of computer forensics: A needs analysis survey. Center for Education and Research in Informatio Assurance and Security, Purdue University