Investigative Task Force
Assuming that legal authority was not an issue, should this investigation be conducted by VPD personnel or a multijurisdictional task force? This investigation should be carried about by VPD personnel as the lead agency and head of a multijurisdictional task force. There are several reasons for this. First, VPD was the first agency to begin investigation of the crimes because the first explosion and damage occurred there. Second, the task force is needed because there are multiple locations for the explosions, deaths, and injuries. With seven counties and two different states involved, it is very important that a task force is established to work together on a cohesive plan to convict the individuals responsible for the criminal acts. When task forces work together, they can provide proper coverage of a criminal act over a larger area (Baden & Roach, 2001).
At what point should the potential of establishing an investigative task force be considered? When a crime scene encompasses more than one jurisdiction or when there are a number of criminal acts that are tied together but that have occurred in multiple jurisdictions, an investigative task force should be considered (Nickell & Fischer, 1999). While these task forces are not always needed, the value of them cannot be ignored and should be carefully considered before any final decision is made. The larger and more dangerous the crimes and the larger the area in which they were committed also plays a role in whether a task force is the right choice (O'Hara & O'Hara, 2003).
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of an investigative task force? Investigative task forces have both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage to them is the extra manpower they provide (Barak, 1998; Burgess, Roberts, & Regehr, 2009). They can also mean a pooling of resources, which includes not just people but also vehicles, K-9s, laboratories, forensic investigators, and others who can provide insight into issues with a particular crime scene or crime spree (Baden & Roach, 2001). However, there are also disadvantages to having a task force investigating a crime. This comes back to the old phrase of having too many chiefs and not enough Indians. In other words, there are too many people who are trying to lead, and they are getting in the way of one another while there are not enough people to actually do the work properly (Deflem, 2006).
There is also the risk of losing evidence and other information between agencies, or working with agencies and officers who are not really committed to sharing all of the information and evidence from the investigation (Deflem, 2006). When that occurs, an investigation that would otherwise be conducted well can end up failing, and criminals can go free (Baden & Roach, 2001). Naturally, that is something that officers would prefer to avoid, but that will often not be determined to be a problem until issues have already arisen (Deflem, 2006). It is important to think carefully about a task force before suggesting or starting one, so the pros and cons can be weighed properly.
4. Who, or what entities, should be involved in the decision to create an investigative task force? The decision to create a task force should belong to the chief or other officer in charge of the lead agency (Nickell & Fischer, 1999). In this case, that would be the VPD. If there are a number of people who are able to make a decision about whether to create a task force, the issue can become entirely too complicated (Nickell & Fischer, 1999). There are times, however, when government agencies "pull rank" and create a task force because of the nature and scope of the crime (O'Hara & O'Hara, 2003). When that takes place, there are usually terroristic or international implications.
5. Assuming, on balance, that you favor a task force approach, what difficulties do you foresee, and how will each be addressed? There are generally always some difficulties with a task force, simply because of the nature of it (Baden & Roach, 2001)....
With a number of people working together and a number of different agencies and different ranks, there can be friction taking place and arguments over who should be doing what in the investigation (Baden & Roach, 2001). Another difficulty with a task force is the idea that the lead agency does not always have the opportunity to remain the leader, especially if national or government agencies get involved and, essentially, take over operations (O'Hara & O'Hara, 2003). A further concern is the sharing of information and evidence, which can be difficult when there are a number of agencies that have to coordinate everything with one another (Baden & Roach, 2001; Barak, 1998; O'Hara & O'Hara, 2003).
These difficulties all have to be addressed clearly and carefully, right from the beginning (Barak, 1998). To do otherwise would cause more friction than necessary and could lead to an investigation that does not take everything into account or even one that allowed a criminal to go free due to the mishandling of evidence or other issues (Barak, 1998). With that in mind, the VPD should be clear about who the leader is, and any efforts to thwart that should be handled quickly. If a government agency does elect to take over, though, that transition should be made without delay and without prejudice, in the interest of keeping the investigation moving forward to a successful conclusion (Burgess, Roberts, & Regehr, 2009).
6. What demands and/or concessions should VPD exercise in order to employ a cooperative task force in this particular case? Initially, VPD should request that it is the lead agency. Since it was the first on the scene and the first to start collecting evidence, it has all the beginning information from the first explosions. Many agencies may want to be a part of the task force, but they should be willing to defer to the lead agency right from the beginning. Additionally, VPD should be very careful not to expand the task force beyond what is necessary. While task forces can be very valuable in the investigation and solving of crimes, they can become too big and cause more difficulties than they solve (Burgess, Roberts, & Regehr, 2009; Deflem, 2006). A task force does not have to be large in order to be successful, and should be based only on the agencies that are really needed in order to handle the investigation in the best way possible (Deflem, 2006).
B. Legal Issues
1. What legal issues should be considered when embarking on a task force investigative strategy? The investigative strategy of a task force is very important, because handling the investigation incorrectly could cause legal issues that would allow criminals to go free (Baden & Roach, 2001). That is not a common issue, but it can and does happen. The more high-profile the case and the more people and agencies who are working on it, the riskier it becomes and the more legal issues will be involved (Baden & Roach, 2001). Among the most significant of the legal issues is the chain of evidence (Deflem, 2006). As information and evidence gets passed back and forth between agencies, there is an opportunity for it to become lost, damaged, or otherwise tampered with (O'Hara & O'Hara, 2003). Once that occurs with one piece of evidence, it all becomes questionable and can taint an entire investigation to the point of putting it at risk (Deflem, 2006).
2. How are each of these issues resolved? This issue, as well as the majority of legal issues that surround a case involving a task force, can be resolved through a very careful chain of custody that does not put information and evidence at risk (Deflem, 2006). The chain of custody being broken can cause an investigation to end up unsuccessful, and if key pieces of evidence cannot be used there is a very serious risk of a criminal walking free (Baden & Roach, 2001; Barak, 1998). Allowing that to happen would be devastating to any task force that was committed to bringing someone to justice, but there have been times when these kinds of problems have occurred (Barak, 1998).
C. Forensic Evidence Collection and Analysis
1. Without regard to individual items of forensic evidence, describe the steps necessary to ensure that items, materials, and samples are eligible as forensic evidence in a criminal proceeding. Why? In order to be eligible as forensic evidence in a criminal trial, an item has to first be collected without any form of contamination (Baden & Roach, 2001). That means not damaging or contaminating the crime scene, and collecting the evidence in such a manner that does not damage or degrade it in any way (Baden & Roach, 2001). This can include the use of gloves, evidence bags, and measuring instruments, among other things (Deflem, 2006). At the time of collection, the collector must record what was collected, and must mark that item properly…
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