Forensic Science and Police Work Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2715 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

This led to the development of short tandem repeat (STR) technique in 1994.

This technique is relatively new but still highly sophisticated and thus greatly in use because its less time consuming and more accurate.

This technique is clearly explained by Andrew Watson in his article A New Breed of High-Tech Detectives (2000), "Modern profiling relies on short tandem repeat (STR) analysis, which debuted in the forensics world in 1994. This technique looks at specific areas of DNA molecules containing simple blocks of base pairs; the blocks are repeated end to end. The number of occurrences of each block, or repeat unit, varies by individual. Examining several DNA regions, or loci, and counting the number of repeated units in each area generates numbers that form a molecular label of the DNA's owner. STR analysis as it's used for DNA profiling relies on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) -- "the cornerstone of the whole process," says Bruce Budowle of the FBI in Quantico, Virginia --to make millions of copies of the selected STR regions. The resulting DNA fragments are then sized up by gel electrophoresis, which yields the number of times each 'repeat unit' appears in the fragment. This gives the DNA profile as a numerical tag for easy database comparison."

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Police departments in all states are now extensively relying on DNA matching to acquit or convict alleged offenders in some ambiguous cases of the past. The forensic evidence now stands a better chance of providing conclusive results. But will police want to continue using forensic science in its investigation with all the current criticism against it? The answer is an emphatic yes, but we cannot say with certainty if it will be able to do so in the wake of certain court rulings and shortage of funds at police laboratories.

We must understand that over the past fifty years, forensic science has made great headway and has positively affected police work. But due to the fact that there are some specific problems attached with testing of ordinary forensic evidence such as handwriting and hair samples, government has failed to pay adequate attention to the development of forensic science.

Term Paper on Forensic Science and Police Work Assignment

While evidence at labs is increasing government funds for better equipment to analyze forensic evidence have not kept pace with this major growth. Since 1990, only ten percent increase has been recorded in forensic labs funds. What government fails to understand is the fact that while forensic science may not give conclusive results, it aids police work in several ways and offers valuable clues in the absence of physical evidence.

However with shortage of funds and staff, many forensic experts are worried about the quality of results. They are of the view that since large amount of evidence is waiting for testing and there is a serious dearth of staff or budgets, there is a chance that this might negative affect the quality of results achieved. United States is not giving proper attention to a science, which has so far helped police departments in various minor and major ways.

Declining faith in forensic science is the result of Daubert vs. Dow pharmaceuticals ruling where it was decided that handwriting analysis couldn't be used as proper scientific evidence. This case has had a profound negative impact on the credibility of forensic evidence because it discredits 70 long years of valuable information and clues gathered by law enforcement agencies.

The court ruled, 'despite the existence of a certification program, professional journals and other trappings of science, [handwriting analysis] cannot, after Daubert, be regarded as 'scientific' knowledge.' This led to even more severe restrictions on forensic evidence that is admissible in U.S. courts.

A personally maintain that while court rulings will put restrictions on what can be considered good science during criminal trials, they cannot possibly lessen the use of forensic science in police work. However police departments will now have to be more careful when using forensic science to analyze evidence. This is because blotching of evidence has had a negative impact on the credibility of this science.

With the possible exception of bodily fluids found at the crime scene, all other types of forensic evidence are viewed with skepticism during court proceedings. This is because no matter how sophisticated microscopic examination is, the results obtained cannot be completely trusted because of certain limitations, which are commonly associated with forensic evidence.

For one, there is always a chance of contamination before the evidence reaches the lab. This is a very common problem and blotching can give misleading results. Secondly, though forensic science has made great progress in past few years, still there is no absolute way to ascertain identity of the specie from certain forensic evidence such as hair specimen.


This research paper studies the role of forensic science in police work over the last fifty years. However it must be borne in mind that not much progress was made in this branch of study until early 1980s when DNA identification system was invented. Prior to that, police was mainly using finger printing as the most common forensic evidence and the role of this science was limited to fingerprint matching. With the invention of STR, forensic science has gained tremendous significance in police work and criminal investigations. Careful study of the last fifty years of forensic science reveals that this particular science was hugely limited in its scope prior to 1990s because of slow technological advancement.

With the passage of time, this science has become an integral part of mainstream police investigations but still United States judiciary is reluctant to accept forensic evidence as sound proof of guilt. This reluctance springs from two problems connected with forensic evidence. "First, some of what passes for scientific methodology in the forensic world would not stand up to scrutiny outside it. Second, the institutions and individuals involved have, until recently, had little cause to improve matters -- and good reason to leave them alone." (The Economist, 1998)

Forensic science with all its flaws needs to be given a fair chance to prove its worth. It may have give misleading results in some cases in the past, but improved technologies are likely to minimize such risks in future. Secondly, we cannot ignore the cases in which forensic science played a dominant role in acquittal or conviction of the alleged offenders. For this reason, government should carefully focus on the development and introduction of sophisticated technologies for forensic testing.


Watson, Andrew, NEW TOOLS: A New Breed of High-Tech Detectives., Science, 08-11-2000.

Udall, Morris K., Criminal Justice - New Technologies and the Constitution: Chapter 2 Investigation, Identification, Apprehension., U.S. History, 09-01-1990

Gregg Easterbrook, DNA and the end of innocence.., The New Republic, 07-31-2000

Cho, Adrian, FORENSIC SCIENCE: Fingerprinting Doesn't Hold Up as a Science in Court., Science, 01-18-2002.

William Murphy, Holes in the System / Fingerprints no guarantee of identifying repeat felons, Newsday, 07-15-1996, pp A05.


MARK WROLSTAD, Hair-matching flawed as a forensic science: DNA testing reveals dozens of wrongful verdicts nationwide., The Dallas Morning News, 03-31-2002, pp 1A.

Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, "Junk Science, Junk Evidence," New York Times, May 11, 2001.

Fingerprint Fable: The Will and William West Case: Journal of Forensic Identification,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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