Technology in Criminal Justice

People have an idea of how law enforcement works but rarely ever think of how much technology affects it, and how much it keep them safe and keep their kids safe. The world changes every single day so consequently law enforcement has to keep up, for example 30 years ago there were no such things as cyber crimes but today there are all new laws and technology to prevent and protect against these crimes. Some innovations were much needed and sought after and others were spontaneous and groundbreaking. It is used in almost every aspect of the system from crime scene investigation to tactical operations and simple patrol.

Looking at the past, present and future of criminal justice technology it’s incredible to see how far it has come. Technology is the muscle and motor functions of a healthful criminal justice system; it’s hard to imagine feeling safe without it. Technology is crucial to the criminal justice system; it is used every single day in many different forms. For example DNA has revolutionized criminal justice forever. DNA is your unique genetic build up, when you commit a crime you may leave behind biological evidence and this is collected by the police crime scene unit.

First is body fluids, it is very common for criminals to get nervous while committing a crime and sweat, spit, or vomit at the scene. To identify and collect these pieces of evidence, a CSI might use smear slides, a scalpel, tweezers, scissors, a UV light, protective eyewear and luminol. Second is a finger print, everyones are unique and when you touch something you leave your print behind. At a crime scene you would find different types of finger prints including Visible which is left by the transfer of blood, paint or another fluid or powder onto a surface that is smooth enough to hold the print and is visible to the naked eye.

Molded which is left in a soft medium like soap, putty or candle wax, forming an impression and lastly Latent which is left by the transfer of sweat and natural oils from the fingers onto a surface that is smooth enough to hold the print and is not visible to the naked eye. A CSI would use brushes, powders, tape, chemicals, lift cards, a magnifying glass and Super Glue to collect a finger print. Next are hairs and fibers which is also part of DNA evidence. Hairs and fibers are collected with combs, tweezers, containers and a filtered vacuum device.

All of this evidence is collected, analyzed and used to identify suspects and link them to a crime. Once all of this DNA evidence is collected it is run through something called CODIS. What CODIS is it’s a national database of DNA profiles belonging to convicted offenders. When investigators run DNA evidence through CODIS they can either get a match or know that multiple crimes were committed by the same person. DNA evidence makes it harder for crimes to be perpetrated. Another example is computers and different computer systems and programs, these help law enforcement everyday.

The National Incident Based Reporting System collects data for each crime investigated and arrests made. The program then sorts the data into one of the 22 offense categories and 46 specified crimes. The reports collected by the National Incident Based Reporting System paint a vivid and detailed picture. With this system investigators can compare crimes and also form accurate statistics to help prevent crimes. Another useful computer program is The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

This is a computerized system that contains records of fingerprints, mug shots, scar and tattoo photos, height, weight and appearance descriptions and criminal histories and aliases. These programs are great but what about the cops who work on the street? Today most patrol cars are equipped with high tech computers which allow police officers to search incident reports search tag numbers and do warrants checks. They are also equipped with GPS which could save an officers life if he was in a situation which required other units to find him. Another example of technology is the use of cameras.

In this day and age when you go out you are filmed many different times and you don’t even know it. Store security cameras, red light cameras, and home surveillance cameras and not to mention almost everyone has a cell phone equipped with cameras and video recorders, if you commit a crime out in the open, more likely then not you have been recorded multiple times. This has changed law enforcement forever because eye witnesses are nice but a picture is worth a thousand words. Another example is when you have a crime that involves a gun the crime scene unit will come and try to find gun shot residue.

Gun shot residue is composed of burnt and unburnt particles from the explosive primer, the propellant, as well as components from the bullet, the cartridge case and the firearm used. This collection of evidence can help investigators identify the shooter (if he has residue on him) identify the weapon and to identify the position of the gun when it was fired. Another recentinnovation in technology used by the criminal justice system is the use of psychology. A forensic psychologist applies the science of psychology to the field of criminal justice.

They work with victims of crimes, assess competency of suspects and work with child victims with the patience and compassion needed. All of this technology helps make the world a safer place but it wasn’t always around. Years ago police had only the bare minimum technology to help against crime. During the late 1800s body temperature was measured to determine the time of death. Fingerprints were collected but were recorded on paper so it would be almost impossible to match a fingerprint based on past crimes in order to narrow your search, you would have to have a suspect and then compare both prints.

Also in the 1930s major innovations were the polygraph and hand writing analysis experts. The polygraph was used during interrogations to determine if some one was lying, it is somewhat used today but have been mostly replaced by psychological experts and criminal profilers who look at different facial expressions and choice of words to determine if you are lying. And handwriting analysis is done by a machine which measures and compares letter sizes and characteristics and is more accurate. Before high tech police cars a major innovation in the 1930s was two way radios.

This was very helpful because before this police used call box stations to communicate. In the 1940s the radar was introduced to traffic enforcement. Radars are used to show police; vehicle locations and speed and still commonly used today. Also in January 1968 it was decided that in emergencies local law enforcement should be reached at one phone number. Before this there were different numbers for different locations. If you had an emergency at your home you might be ok but what if you were on vacation? Within ten years all emergency calls were made through 911 systems.

This system is used country wide and still today. It’s hard to believe technology has come as far as it has in such a short amount of time. Everyday it gets harder and harder to successfully perpetrate a criminal act. The future of criminal justice is here. The first step is facial recognition software, the way this works is police take an image from a surveillance video and the software compares it through another database for example DMV records, the software then matches and identifies the person in the original image.

This software has already been ordered for the Tampa police dept and the NYPD. Also police use something called Shotspotter; this is used in cases involving guns. Shotspotter works by using sensors to determine exact locations in which a gun was fired with pin point accuracy. This is more advanced and accurate then current testing and will paint a more vivid image of the crime. Another new technology is called dragon skin armor; this is the future of personal protection equipment.

Dragon skin armor is nearly impenetrable; it works by utilizing a stacked, scaled design to provide layers of fabric based lightweight ballistic armor, combined with high strength ceramic armored composites. Dragon skin armor is lighter, more flexible, and three times more effective then normal Kevlar vests. It has been tested by the US Army and the FBI and will soon be available to all law enforcement agencies. Another new technology is in the category of police fire power. Swat teams, ESU, and Special ops enforcers typically use weapons like the M-16, M-4, and assault rifles like the AK-47.

These have served their time well but are beginning to be out dated. The OICW XM-8 is the future; this weapon combines an infantry rifle with a 25 mm grenade launcher and has firing accuracy that you would simply only believe if you saw. This weapon can do things like take out walls and find the enemy via radar from 500 meters away. The OICW XM-8 is set to be available to the US military, The US department of defense, Home land security, and some police tactical situation units by the end of 2012.

The next piece of technology is truly amazing; it’s called Metameterial cloaking camouflage. This innovation will revolutionize camouflage usage from tan and black apparel to simply being invisible. The way it works is it’s made up of hundreds of thousands of mirrored holographic discs to blend into an environment. This creates endless possibilities for under cover operations, sneak attacks, and gaining entry in situations where you don’t want to bee seen, for example a hostage, or a robbery.

Although groundbreaking this technology is still developing and wont be released for a few years. This future technology will help prevent and protect against crimes in ways that were never thought possible. The future looks very bleak for criminals. The definition of technology is the application of science to achieve a commercial or industrial objective. The objective at hand is preventing and protecting against crime and we apply tools and science in this field every second of everyday.

It used to be easy to get away with crimes, drivers licenses never used to have pictures, police would lose documents, and different agencies wouldn’t cooperate with each other. Now it’s very difficult and it only gets harder as new technology is revealed. It’s hard to believe that in 1960 there was no such thing as calling 911 but in 2013 police have camouflage that makes you invisible and software that identifies you from a photograph. It’s all necessary though, it gives people peace of mind and helps the feel safe.