Archive for the ‘Criminal Investigation’ Category

Art, perception, and policing

February 3, 2020

New York and Chicago PDs have incorporated fine art in training aimed at enhancing perception skills and overcoming bias, as reported here. One CPD commander notes “By training in the art field, your brain tends to adapt and see things in a way [other] people might not see,” including learning not to make quick assumptions about what you observe. The historian who teaches “The Art of Perception” says “In this disengaged world that we’re living in, art from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries still has the power to engage people to look more carefully.”

Autopsies hindered by organ donation

October 17, 2019

Organ donation has become more common over the years, and several states have enacted laws aimed at speeding up the “harvesting” process so that body parts can be preserved to help others in need. As reported here, these laws sometimes enable companies to secure parts, including skin and bones in addition to organs, before autopsies have been conducted. Investigations have been compromised — “In multiple cases, coroners have had to guess at the cause of death.”

Drones in Colorado & California

October 15, 2019

Police utilization of drones seems to be picking up. In California, Chula Vista reports 1,000 missions in the first year of its Drone as a First Responder program, resulting in 130 arrests and numerous assists to arriving officers, as reported here. Police in Longmont and Boulder, Colorado, are using drones to locate missing persons, monitor emergency situations, and obtain aerial documentation of crime and crash scenes, as reported here.

Shootings & homicides down in Milwaukee

September 28, 2019

Homicides and shootings have been dropping since 2015 in Milwaukee. As reported here, officials credit better response to shootings as a way of preventing retaliatory violence, and much greater collaboration with public health and violence prevention initiatives. The mantra is “Treat every shooting as if it were a homicide — because it almost was.” The approach is modeled after Oakland, California where shootings and homicides were cut in half over 5 years, as reported here.

Rules for searching family tree DNA databases

September 27, 2019

This article reports new federal rules designed to limit police access to genetic (DNA) genealogy databases. The rules, taking effect November 1, will only apply to federal law enforcement agencies “and state or local agencies with federal funding to use genetic genealogy searches.” But some experts think they will be more widely adopted as a national model, considering privacy concerns and the current lack of regulation over fast-developing practices.

Psychological phenomena affecting investigations

September 1, 2019

The International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Innocence Project offer 7 videos here, each one 4-5 minutes long, explaining psychological factors that can negatively affect criminal investigations and the ensuing legal process. Topics include confirmation bias, tunnel vision, memory malleability, and mistaken eyewitness identification.

Insurance companies funding police investigations

August 19, 2019

This article discusses the practice of insurance companies funding police (and sometimes prosecutors) to investigate cases of alleged insurance fraud. On the plus side, it’s an example of public-private partnership and cost sharing. In some cases, however, it puts police in the position of serving the financial interests of insurance companies. The article reports several examples of flawed investigations that wreaked havoc on individuals later determined to be innocent.

Familial & moderate stringency DNA

August 13, 2019

This RAND report explains the increasing use of familial DNA in cases that lack an exact DNA match, as well as “moderate stringency” DNA searches designed to yield investigative leads. The report discusses legal, ethical, and practical issues and describes different approaches taken in California, Texas, and in the UK.

Trade secrets vs. due process

August 5, 2019

This article discusses the conflict that arises when evidence against a defendant is rooted in privately developed technology or software. Examples include probabilistic DNA typing, algorithms, breathalyzers, and stingray cell-site simulators. Defense efforts to challenge the validity of evidence derived from these technologies are often stymied by refusals to reveal key details about how they work, because companies say that would cause them to lose valuable trade secrets. Courts have generally sided with the companies.

Serial rape more common than thought

July 15, 2019

This article examines information on rape and rape investigation resulting from analysis of backlogged rape kits. In Cleveland, nearly 20% of CODIS hits “pointed to a serial rapist — giving the Cleveland investigators leads on some 480 serial predators to date.” That city and Detroit have been most aggressive at analyzing, investigating, and prosecuting from their backlogs. In general, however, a continuing problem is “law enforcement’s abiding skepticism of women who report being raped” — especially those who don’t fit the criteria of a “righteous victim.”