The profession of criminal justice is a fascinating field of work. The skills one must learn to earn a forensic science degree or become a crime scene investigator, are founded of principles of forensic psychology and criminology. In crime scene training, the investigator is looking for clues that will lead to understanding what type of crime was committed, the identity of the perpetrator of the crime and their motive.
In order for criminal justice to be truthfully served, it is necessary for the crime scene investigator to be impartial. This characteristic is essential to by football commentators who analyze penalty decisions. Both of these activities have several things in common:
- a set of rules
- defined consequences if the rules are violated
- logical reasoning on which the rules are based
While the football commentator witnesses the penalty, the crime scene investigator does not have the same advantage. The forensic evidence that is gathered in the process along with the analysis that follows is added to other information about the crime. Just as the football commentators will watch the replay of the action that brought the penalty decision, the evidence begins to be organized in a manner that reconstructs the events surrounding the crime.
The logic and science that are components of criminology, expose the inclinations of the criminal mind. To better understand the patterns of different types of crimes, forensic psychology considers the hidden motivations that can drive an individual to break the law. When a football player commits a foul and the penalty flag is thrown, the football commentator reviews the play and in many cases will find that the player indeed knew he was breaking a rule. However as we have seen time and again, when human emotions take control, common sense is over ruled.
It is the same scenario in crimes of passion, i.e., one spouse finds the other having sexual relations with someone else, their emotions kick in and someone gets physically hurt. It is easy for a person who has no emotional involvement to think rationally that the person should have walked away. But just as the football player disregarded the fact he was breaking the rules, the aggressor in the marital situation was unable to hold to a logical course of action.
During an investigators’ crime scene training, it is not always the obvious piece of evidence that leads to solving the crime. The degree to which each item collected and analyzed through forensic science methodology will have a bearing on the case and the eventual administration of criminal justice is rarely known until the case is solved.
Once the evidence yields information where a person or persons can be identified, the law enforcement personnel must locate and apprehend the suspect. In the criminal justice system of the United States, a person is assumed innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers. The forensic evidence collected during the crime scene investigation, factual information, forensic psychology analysis, the application of criminology theories and interrogation of the suspect are all employed in the process of building a case for the trial that will determine whether or not the person accused of the crime did in fact commit the crime and if so, what type and manner of punishment-what is the penalty they should receive.
The evidence that referees use in making their penalty decision is somewhat the same. The football commentators bring the same perspective in their discussion, they look at the big picture and how those factors influenced the players action. If, for instance, a player committed an action as a result of an action against him, the penalty is adjusted accordingly. So it is the same in the criminal justice system, where it is recognized that the intention of the person impacts the level of the charge, i.e., a crime that is planned for a long period of time as opposed to a spontaneous act, may have the same result, i.e., physical injury of a person, but the individuals who committed the acts will be charged differently, i.e., Attempted Murder and First Degree Assault.
A criminology or forensic science degree and crime scene training provides crime scene investigators with the knowledge that helps them to interpret the psychological clues/motives of the person who committed the crime. In the “Son of Sam” case and many others, David Berkowitz told interrogators that he had heard voices telling him to commit the acts of murder that took 20? lives.
Forensic and criminal psychologists interviewed Berkowitz and found him completely convinced that he was simply following instructions and the murders he had committed were necessary. Again we see that rationale thought nor knowledge of the law against murder were employed. Many considered the mental state of David Berkowitz in light of his statements, as a confirmation that he did not know the difference between right and wrong.
However as forensic psychologists and crime scene investigators have found, there is a rationale at work in the mind of the criminal, it is just different from the rationale of the law. The criminal justice systems and the laws that affect it, are specific to the society it governs. When the mind set of the people hold certain values, the laws are created and put in place to support that perspective.
In the game of football, the strategy behind how the game is played can be compared to the laws and statutes of the criminal justice system. Simply put, the laws of society are the rules for living within the society and enjoying the privileges thereof. Criminologists have found that the more out of sync a person is with the value system, hence the laws of the society, the more likely that person is to commit a crime.
We have seen football players intentionally commit a foul, just to make a point or send a message. There are criminal cases that reflect the same intention. In 2004, a GROUP KNOWN AS, was allegedly behind a series of fires that destroyed millions of dollars worth of property to draw attention to their cause. If you were to say to someone: “Let’s burn a house down so people will know we do not like the design”, more than likely the person would think what you are saying does not make sense. But crime scene investigators have learned that when individuals begin to feel that the society is not in step with their reality they will go to drastic measures to be recognized.
Unfortunately, there are cases in football games and in the commission of a crime that individuals suffer physical injury. In the case of football, where a player has intentionally caused physical injury to another player, the commentator can only criticize the action; they can not arrest them. This is where the similarities between these two activities end. For once the forensic evidence is processed, the person who committed the crime will be brought to stand trial and may face imprisonment.
Part of forensic psychology is understanding the five common human motivators at work in each of us to varying degrees. The form and substance of forensic science is to understand how physical evidence, including symbols, organization and procedure along with the influence of one or more of these motivators can result in an act of crime.
As the crime scene investigator collects evidence, nothing can be assumed. There have been hundreds of documented cases where the classification of a crime had to be redefined based on a new piece of information that changes the forensic science analysis. What was initially thought of as a solved case, is completely put in a new light by new forensic evidence being produced by new technologies, as in the case of DNA testing. Since the development of this branch of forensic science applications for use in crime scene investigation tests, many individuals who were wrongly convicted of a crime have granted their freedom.
What this development made clear to the people who work in criminal justice and its related fields, is that the importance of forensic science cannot be understated. Individuals who received a criminology or forensic science degree 20 years ago, had only a fraction of what is included in this curriculum today. Lasers, the discovery of the genome, microchip computers and sophisticated equipment are some of the forensic science weaponry are all being used to apprehend criminals today.
Most of us understand the importance to any civilized society to have a competent system of laws to support just treatment of the members of that society. In the ideal vision of a society, human rights are valued, and the means for each person to secure themselves with the necessities of life is in place. When this balance deteriorates, when human rights are violated and an individual is not able to survive within the context society has defined, a heretofore law abiding citizen can turn to committing criminal acts, i.e, a hungry person who has no money for food, will begin to steal to eat.
There is an overwhelming amount of reports, studies and surveys that support the fact the rate of crime is increasing. In addition to the number of crimes being committed, the methodology of the commission of the crimes is changing. The advancements in the field of explosives, computer technology, telecommunications and artillery have all been used in the crimes of this period of time. As the methods criminals use become more sophisticated, there is an urgent appeal ringing throughout the criminal justice systems for the legal system to keep pace to give them what they need to protect society.
There are also many times when the legal system’s response creates more problems than it solves. In the response to the deadly attacks of September 11, 2001, there were many legal measures adopted to address the threat of foreign attack. However, some would suggest that these statutes are unconstitutional and now even more safeguards will needed to protect individual from the criminal justice system.
The analogy of comparing the skills of the football commentator and the crime scene investigator, points to the fact of how intrinsically the law is woven throughout our daily lives. Just as knowledge of football rules will color the commentators reaction to a penalty decision, so will the knowledge of the laws that impact your life temper your thoughts and action.
Criminology and forensic science information influence the findings of a crime scene investigator and play a crucial role when a determination of criminal intent must be assessed. When a person is arrested at the scene of a crime, no matter what their stated reasons are for being there, the forensic evidence can either support their statement or disprove it.
There have been many stories written based on the concept of evidence being found at the scene of a crime that incriminates an innocent person. Even with this fact, the skilled crime scene investigator along with the other members of the forensic science team, can discover the truth. However there are many critics of the criminal justice system as it is today. Given the fact that we are all human and subject to the same types of emotions, the incidents of corruption within the system, has been met with a demand for system reform to restore its integrity.
When members of a society hold the impression that “all are equal under the law”, is no longer true, disrespect for the law becomes more evident. As history has shown us, disrespect for the law leads to increases in lawlessness, which follows the corruption of those who swore to uphold the law. The tie between corruption and criminal activity has been proven in many cases, i.e. where a judge accepts a bribe to rule in favor of dismissing charges against a person or a police officer accepts a bribe to ignore criminal activity. In these cases, the fact that both of these individuals represent the criminal justice system, makes their crime more offensive to society.
Individuals who have a comprehensive understanding of the legal system, can be the most difficult to apprehend should they decide to engage in criminal activity. In addition, if they have knowledge of how to use forensic science, a crime scene investigator may find very little evidence to analyze. A person who commits a criminal act may be on the wrong side of the law, but that does not mean they are not intelligent which results in a number of criminal cases unsolved each year.
To meet this ever growing challenge, new forensic science and criminology concepts, techniques and tools are constantly being developed. More stringent deterrents are being put in place to handle the constant threat of corruption, including legislation on the state and federal levels. The technology of today has created new avenues for criminal activity that must be addressed as well, in some cases, statutes must be revised or new laws drafted to give order to the procedures that law enforcement use and by which the courts administer justice.
The awareness of the purpose of the criminal justice system in the prevention of crime is subscribed to our families, educational institutions and law enforcement agencies. The statement: “ignorance of the law is no excuse”, is one that underlines the importance of each individual having a clear understanding of the laws that affect them living in this particular society. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and many individuals find themselves in a state of shock and at the mercy of the criminal justice system when they unwittingly or ignorantly break the law. Unlike in a football game where a player may be fined or suspended from the game for a period of time for breaking the rules, the stakes are much higher when it comes to breaking the law. Not only does the criminal face the loss of their liberty and various privileges of society, but their actions also impact the individuals that they are associated with in addition to creating financial hardship.
It is clear that even with the best education in regards to the law that society can offer, there will always be individuals who are tempted to disregard the law when it is to their advantage. From the law enforcement officer to the crime scene investigator and forensic science team, the odds of successfully escaping punishment for their crime is very slim. Hopefully, the presence of an equitable criminal justice system with accountability mandated for its representatives can persuade these individuals to resist the temptation to engage in criminal activity.