The Criminal Justice Field has had many great developments and contributions made by many people all around the world that have affected it evolution. These contributions have affected the criminal investigative process and forensic science area in the criminal justice field. Law enforcement officers have many roles and procedures that have significance in the field of criminal justice; these roles include police officers as first responders, crime scene investigators as collectors, identifiers, examiners of evidence, and detectives as truth seekers.
The evolution of criminal investigations began in England in the eighteenth century. Political, social, economic and legal issues have all contributed to the evolution of criminal investigations. According to Swanson, Chamelin, Territo and Taylor (2009), during the eighteenth century, two events- an agricultural revolution and an industrial revolution-began a process of change that profoundly affected how police services are delivered and investigations conducted. The improvements in the industrial revolution cause people go from working on the farm to having jobs in the city, and as the population grew in the cities, so did the areas high in poverty which caused crime to increase. As the crime rate continued to increase the public demand for crime control became an increasing demand.
Over the past two decades there has been in increase in technology that is able to the criminal justice field that has enhanced the services and assisted with solving crimes. For example, over the past two decades there has been a number of discoveries in the area of DNA profiling, and they have led to quicker procedures with excellent reliability (Chamelin, Territo and Taylor, 2009). Developments with instruments and tools such as computer stress analysis, facial recognition software, surveillance, telephone record analysis, remote sensing, digital crime labs, etc have greatly affected and changed the criminal justice field. These new developments will continue to assist law enforcement officers with identifying victims and suspects as well as solve crime. Scientific Breakthroughs from team and individual efforts will continue with the progression of technologies, which will lead to creating more advance systems and data bases. Blending old and new technologies will continue to foster the initiatives at the institutional and system levels. Also with new developments with personal identification, computer stress analysis, facial recognition software, surveillance, telephone record analysis, remote sensing, digital crime labs, data banking and Combined DNA Index System, etc over the past decade have change the criminal justice system and have assisted with quickly indentifying suspects, ruling out the innocent and have assisted with exonerating innocent people that have been falsely accused of crimes.
Law enforcement officers have many roles, one being the first responder on the scene. Law enforcement officer responds to reports of criminal or suspicious activity. Law enforcement officers maintain order by acting as the first responder to emergencies, investigating crimes, and performing community outreach. The first responder strives to be the lasting difference between life and death. Daily duties of police officers vary widely depending on location, size, and type of the managing organization (Expanding the, 2010). Nevertheless, all police officers are charged with the responsibility to exercise authority in the interest of assisting citizens during any emergency (Expanding the, 2010). Uniformed police officers with general law enforcement duties are called most often to respond to emergencies and calls for service, which can require an officer to perform several task, from supervising a crime scene to administering first aid.
Training for first responder status consist of weeks of preparation at a police academy at local and state police departments to ensure that rookies are fully prepared for their professional status as a first responder. First responders are educated on numerous security-related topics, emergency handing skills and self defense. This role is very significant to the criminal justice field, the first responder is very important to any crime scene, and investigation because they are the first person one the scene. The first responder also has to gain control of the situation and maintain order until other officers arrive on the scene to assist them and as stated earlier may have to provide medical attention until EMTâ€™s arrive. Also the first responder has to prevent others from entering the crime scene from that point on due to the possibility of contamination of possible evidence, as well as the entire crime scene. The first responders have to use whatever power or force necessary to protect themselves as well as victims involved in the crime. As the first responder they are going into a crime scene situation with little or no knowledge of what is going on, and their job is to gain and maintain control of the situation and they have to do whatever is necessary to make that happen until other assistance arrives.
Crime Scene collectors is another role of law enforcement officers. As a crime scene collector they must collect evidence and get it back to the lab without contaminating the evidence. While searching and gathering evidence law enforcement must proceed with caution and package possible evidence carefully. Law enforcement officers must prioritize while at a crime scene. Collectors must always wear gloves, to protect themselves and prevent contamination of any evidence and must collect evidence in the order that is most logical and conserves movement (Taylor, 2010).
Crime Scene Collectors must preserve all items of crimes scene evidence in a separate envelops or sack, even if they are similar. Wet items must be dried before packing because evidence can get moldy .Liquids must be stored in containers that will not leak and they must label everything completely and accurately. The rule of inclusiveness dictates that every available piece of evidence is obtained and, where there is a question as to whether a particular item constitutes evidence is defined as such. (Crime Scene Investigation, 1999).
The role of the crime scene collector can be abuse in various ways. The crime scene collector may get easily distracted and over look possible evidence. They may get caught up in conversation and forget to properly seal a bag evidence correctly which could cause contamination. Collectors may also loose evidence because of being careless, not being very cognizant of their duties. This role is very important because evidence is the key to any crime and many people have been acquitted or imprisoned due to evidence tampering, contaminations or lack thereof.
Law enforcement officers are also identifiers or better known as the identification technician. The identification technician plans and organizes the operation of the Police Departmentâ€™s Crime Lab and coordinates external lab services: performs technical duties in support of police investigative activities; serves as a witness in court proceedings; and performs other duties assigned (Livermore Police, 2010). Identification technicians role consist of filing evidence in the identification lab according to established procedures; collects, develops, cuts and files film taken by detectives and patrol officers; Compares, analyzes, classifies and logs latent fingerprints from crime scenes, case fingerprints of suspects and prepares reports for requester and supervisor; they also will testify in court as to the fingerprint findings; provide professional photography services for major crime scenes; processes crime scene by dusting, retrieving, developing and recovering latent fingerprints.
This role is very significant to crime scene investigations because they assist with many important aspects of the investigation. The identification technician is crucial to the criminal justice field because of the skills and techniques, as well as the training they possess that assist them with identifying victims, suspects as well ruling out the people that can lead to solving the crime. This role can also be abuse for the same reason some of the same reason as stated in the previous section, overlooking possible evidence, engaging in conversation and giving this job the full undivided attention it requires, evidence tampering and contamination.
Law enforcement officers also have the roles of being the examiner of evidence. There different kinds of examiners in the criminal justice field to name a few are the medical examiner also known as the pathologist, their job is to determine the cause of death by examining the corpse (victim). The medical examiner will perform an autopsy of the body during the investigation, and they may be asked to assist with identifying the victim. Computer Forensic examiner uses various techniques to search files and records contained a computer, servers, discs, external hard drives. In some cases, examiners must attempts to restore data that has been deleted or break encryptions on files that are password protected. They also assist with solving computer crimes.
The DNA forensic examiner identifies, analyzes, and interprets DNA samples of biological evidence submitted for criminal investigations or other legal matters; prepare reports and finding and provide expert witness testimony. This evidence would include hair, blood, saliva, any liquid that come from a body. Also there are the firearms examiners; they analyze guns and weapons used to commit crimes. Guns leave a ballistic fingerprint which results from the weaponâ€™s individual gunâ€™s and twist and grooves that spin the bullet as it shoots. (How to, 2010). These examiners are just a few of the many forensic examiners that assist with investigations in the criminal justice field.
These examiner roles in the criminal justice field are very important and needed. Each area specializes in what they do and knows exactly what to look for when evidence is presented before them. All of these examiners roles have contributed to finding additional evidence that may have not been found at first, and have linked many individuals to crimes as well as found suspects who thought that they may have gotten away and did not know that these specialists existed. The examiners role is very reasonable in the field of criminal justice; they are good at what they do and it hard for them to abuse the power that they have, unless they withhold evidence that may be the key to solving the crime.
Finally the roles of the detective as truth seekers are another role that law enforcement officer have. The job is to find out as much information about the crime as possible and detectives use many forms of gathering information to solve or prevent crimes. They will interview witness, first responder to the scene, and possible suspects to solve the crime. Detectives will also notes throughout the duration of the interview just in case they need to follow up with a witness in regards to some information that was given or for more questioning. One method detectives use to gather information is conduct interviews. Detectives will interview witnesses and suspects to gather information and also use informants which are people who provide information to the investigator that pertains to the crime.
Interrogation is another method detectives use to gather information from possible suspects. According to Swanson, Chamelin, Territo and Taylor (2009), interrogation is designed to match acquired information to a particular suspect to secure a confession. While interviewing is primarily for the purposes of gaining information, interrogation is the process of testing that information and its application to a particular suspect. Obtaining valuable facts, eliminating the innocent, identifying the guilty and obtaining a confession are the main objectives when using interrogation
The major problem for the police in conducting criminal investigations is determining the utility of the information (evidence) gathered. (Police: Criminal, 2010). While such information may be discovered or otherwise available to the police, only a small portion of it may be accurate, complete, and relevant, and hence useful, in establishing the identity (and/or whereabouts) of the culprit (Police: Criminal, 2010).
Law enforcement officers as truth seekers are very significant to the criminal justice field. A lot of important information is gathered by detectives just by interviewing witnesses and suspects throughout the duration of the investigation. Many times detectives are able to get a confession from the suspect just by talking with them. Imagine if detectives did not conduct interviews or even interrogate possible suspects, this would make their job a lot harder, because they would only have use the evidence that is present and many criminals would get way with the crime they have committed.
The power that detective have can be abuse, during the interview/interrogation process. Many suspects can be beaten, tortured which is illegal, or even coerced into confessing to a crime and these tactics used to get information out of people is an abuse of power, as well as authority. When law enforcement officers use these tactics they create distrust among law enforcement and the people are sworn to protect. This also creates more legal issues such as law suits filed against the police department and police departments receives bad reputations.
In Conclusion, the evolution of investigative techniques has evolved over the past ten years with new and increasing developments forensic science that have assisted with enhancing the criminal justice field. The many roles and responsibilities of law enforcement officers have a significant part in finding suspects and solving crimes; although the power associated with these roles are abused sometimes; they are used very reasonably and assisted with solving crimes and bringing justice to the victims.