Pressures on Forensic Analysts When Dealing With Investigators and Prosecutors
Forensic science is comparatively new tool in the arsenal of those who conduct crime investigations. It helps detectives and other law enforcement officers bring criminals to book by using evidence from crime scenes and tying them to the perpetrators. Forensic analysts and scientists are people who are involved in analyzing the evidence by applying the principles of science to them and then providing expert testimony in a court of law that tries the criminal.
In any investigation, there is often a disconnection between the forensics team and the law and legal enforcement teams. Forensic scientists are sometimes under pressure from and at loggerheads with investigators and prosecutors (if you have seen the television series Bones, the frequent confrontation between the FBI special agent assigned to the cases, Seely Booth, and the forensics team, which he calls “the squints” would give you a general idea of how it really is), because:
· They have to live up to the image projected on TV: Crime investigation shows like CSI, Bones and others are often the only sources of information that people have about forensics. This makes them imagine that the lives of forensic analysts are as glamorous as those of the people shown on TV. The reality is that forensic analysis involves a great deal of drudgery and attention to detail. Most findings are routine and matter-of-fact than dramatic, as they always are on TV.
· They must deal with unrealistic expectations: A television show is over and done with in an hour, and the criminals are brought to book by the protagonists in record time. In real life, however, forensic analysis takes a long time, especially some tests that relate to DNA analysis. Not many people understand this reality, and even investigators and prosecutors find themselves hurrying the process along because of pressure from higher ups and the media. A forensic scientist cannot rush a task, because the scientific process dictates the rules and regulations that a task must conform to. The external pressure sometimes makes them commit mistakes, some of which could turn out to be costly for the prosecution and let the real criminals go scott-free, or worse, end up convicting an innocent person.
· Forensic labs are short of money and staff: This makes it difficult for them to get the work done as fast as possible. When you’re solving a crime, especially one that is high-profile, time is of the essence. But with no skilled personnel and no money to fund your experiments and tests, it’s hard to provide results in the time that investigators and prosecutors demand them.
This article is written by Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of forensic science technician at her blog Forensic Scientist Blog. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.