Criminal investigation plays a crucial role in law enforcement in relation to the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of criminals. This paper examines the evolution of criminal investigation research in light of the developments that have taken place in this field. A history of the criminal investigation is also discussed as well as a definition of the criminal investigation process. The author also examines how DNA, fingerprinting, and forensic science have developed to become crucial in criminal investigation research.
A criminal investigator can be described as an individual who collects, records, and analyzes evidence and information related to a criminal offense. The main goal of criminal investigation is to discover the truth regarding the events and processes that contributed to the occurrence of a criminal offense. Generally, the investigative process has four major objectives i.e. establishing the occurrence of an offense, determining and arresting the suspect, recovering stolen property, and facilitating the prosecution of those involved in the offense. Criminal investigation is a profession or practice that has evolved considerably over time due to numerous efforts to enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement. The evolution of criminal investigation research is linked to the history and development of criminal investigation.
History of Criminal Investigation
The history of criminal investigation can be traced back to the 18th Century in England during a period characterized by considerable political, economic, and social changes (Swanson, Chamelin, Territo & Taylor, 2012, p.2). These various changes were crucial to the development of the first contemporary detective force known as Bow Street Runners. These factors in turn resulted in the eventual development of police organizations and criminal investigations in America. Notably, there are two major changes that took place in the 18th Century i.e. An industrial revolution and an agricultural revolution. These revolutions provided the basis for a process of change that had significant impacted how law enforcement services were delivered and investigations carried out. The increase in incidents of crime during this period forced police officers to enforce drastic measures.
Even though Bow Street Runners were the leading police organization in England during this period, they were soon faced with several challenges that lead to a reputation of inefficiency and incompetency.
The other significant event in the history of criminal investigation took place in the 19th Century when technology in crime detection started to flourish through the creation of the Bertillon system, a personal identification system by Alphonse Bertillon. This system was based on notion that some aspects of the human body remained the same after an individual has attained complete physical maturity. The system mainly worked through a combination of photographs with consistent physical measurements (Morn, 2000, p.3).
The third development in criminal investigation occurred in the mid-1840s when the study of fingerprint models became a famous means to identify suspects in a criminal offense. While the use of fingerprints is widespread in the modern police agencies, it wasn't until late 19th Century that it was discovered that an individual's fingerprints could be distinctive, unchangeable methods of personal identification. The discovery of the use of fingerprints in criminal investigation has been credited to Henry Fields and William J. Herschel who worked in Asia during this period.
In the past few decades, criminal investigation has evolved to the increased use of forensic psychology and forensic science in investigation of criminal offenses. Forensic science is a field that draws from various diverse professions like biology, geology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics to examine physical evidence associated with crime. Since it draws from diverse disciplines, forensic science entails the use of various professionals in the investigation process depending on the nature of the criminal offense. For instance, if an individual has allegedly died from poisoning, a toxicologist can help in the investigation process since he/she specializes in identifying poisons and their physiological impacts on human beings and animals (Swanson, Chamelin, Territo & Taylor, 2012, p.2). The other professions that assist in criminal investigations in forensic science include forensic pathology, botany, archaeology, and entomology.
In the United States, the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in 1924 is the single most major development in the evolution of criminal investigation. While it emerged in 1907 as the Bureau of Investigation...
It gained more responsibilities and notoriety when new federal laws regarding interstate transportation of stolen automobiles were enacted. As corruption and political engagement were eliminated from the FBI, the agency in turn lessened the number of its countrywide agents, closed certain field offices, and raised qualifications for its personnel. Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is one of the various federal investigative agencies that have made considerable efforts in professionalizing and enhancing the effectiveness of criminal investigation.
Criminal Investigation Research
As previously mentioned, criminal investigation research is the systematic and thorough process that is geared toward bringing someone to justice i.e. incarcerating, prosecuting, and convicting criminals (O'Connor, 2006). Research has emerged as an important element in criminal investigations similar to other aspects of criminal justice. The incorporation of research into criminal investigations has been fueled by the changing nature of criminal activity and the investigator's role. These factors have contributed to the inclusion of research in the criminal investigation field to enhance the effectiveness of the investigation process in the arrests, prosecution, and convictions of criminals.
The evolution of criminal investigation research has mainly been based on the incorporation of modern forensic science in criminal investigation process in the last quarter of the 19th Century. The use of forensic science methods has conventionally been centered on more serious offenses like homicide and rape. However, in the past few years, forensic science techniques have increasingly been utilized to help in investigation of volume offenses like vehicle crime and burglary. While the proportion of volume crime offenses detected by the application of these methods has historically been low, they have been utilized to corroborate evidence against known criminals as well as in a manner that identifies and unknown criminals (Bradbury & Feist, 2005).
Forensic science originated from Europe and draws from various disciplines, which makes it an important aspect in criminal investigation research. Forensic science in criminal investigation research has evolved to an extent that it has grown considerably in the past years. This growth has contributed to the emergence of sub-disciplines in forensic science that are used as part of criminal investigation research. An example of these sub-disciplines in forensic science is forensic pathology, which is used to help identify the cause of death through analysis of a corpse. Criminal investigators utilize these varying aspects of forensic science to collect and analyze important information and evidence that may result in the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of known and unknown offenders. Even though forensic science in criminal investigation research seemingly enjoys periods of stability, it is not only dynamic but also in constant progress.
The second element in the evolution of criminal investigation research is the use of fingerprint, which is a major factor in the history of criminal investigation. Actually, fingerprinting is considered as one of the advances in forensic science as an aid to criminal investigations and detection. The use of fingerprinting in criminal investigation research was fueled by the increased use of technology in crime detection. The uniqueness of a person's fingerprint provided the impetus for its use as a vital component in identifying criminal and aiding criminal investigation processes and research.
The third aspect in evolution of criminal investigation research is the use of DNA in the process and as part of forensic science. DNA has become a major component of criminal investigation research because of increased interest and study in the structure of the human gene. The discovery that some portions of the structure of the DNA of some genes can be as distinctive to people as are fingerprints fueled the use of DNA in criminal investigations. This is primarily of the little to no probability that two people can have identical or similar DNA patterns. DNA is essentially a chemical outline that determines nearly every aspect of a human including hair color and vulnerability to diseases.
Criminal investigation research is not only dynamic but also in constant progress because of developments in cognitive ability. The cognitive ability of humans usually develops over time though observations can sometimes contain error. The development of cognitive ability is crucial in lessening the tendency to reach wrong conclusions and helps in recognizing the need for weighing all facts in a case (Osterburg & Ward, 2014, p.313). The emergence of new techniques in criminal investigation, which are brought by the evolution of this field, enhance cognitive ability. This in turn results in improvement of the criminal investigation process and enhanced effectiveness.
Criminal investigation research has evolved over time due to the developments in the process of criminal investigations. The developments have been fueled by social, political, and economic changes that occur from time to time. Criminal investigation research has evolved to include the use of…
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