Police use of forensic science

  • McCulloch H
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Since 1987 several reports have made recommendations for the collection of statistics on forensic support. Most forces now follow the PRSU recommendations (1991) and collect a broadly similar range of statistics. This report shows data, for the calendar year 1994, on the use of forensic support in 11 forces in England and Wales. The information was recorded on a standard computer software system (the Scenes of Crime Information Management System, SOCIMS) in each force and was collated by a special programme written by the system’s producers. Despite all the forces using the same software, the data were recorded in many different ways, and a substantial cleaning and sorting process was needed. Although there was a fair amount of missing data, the two databases which resulted from this process provided a wealth of information on how forensic science was used, its costs and, to some extent, its usefulness. The two databases are described by a series of tables and, where possible, some accompanying analysis. It has been frequently recommended (Touche Ross 1987, Audit Commission 1990, PRSU 1991) that national statistics on the use of forensic science support should be centrally collected. During the data collection and analysis phases of this report, there was a high level of interest in the data, indicating a strong support for the collection of national statistics. Forces were particularly keen to compare their performance with other forces and to look for innovative uses of forensic support. Properly collected, national data could also be used to look for examples of good practice. However, collating the data from SOCIMS took almost a year and so obviously this would not be a feasible method for regular data collection Should it be decided that national statistics on the use of forensic support should be collected, it is recommended that: ● a central body should be tasked with producing standardised offence and test categories and more definitive definitions for evaluation scores. The PRSU recommendations should form the basis of these categories and definitions; ● the same body should be responsible for deciding what information is collected AND the collection, analysis and dissemination of the data; ● for the present collecting information should be a manual process, not electronic; and ● inter-force comparisons should be made as selectively and cautiously as possible.

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  • Helen McCulloch

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