Investigating criminal offenses is one the most important aspects of law enforcement.
Once a crime is reported to the police, investigators have several responsibilities
to work towards solving the crime. This includes gathering documents, evidence
and information from various sources. For the most part, the roots of criminal
investigation can be traced back to England in the eighteenth-century, a time
period marked by numerous social, political and economic changes. These changes
were catalysts in the creation of the first modem detective force, the Bow Street
Runners. In addition, London was the home of the first police reformer, Robert
Peel. Both of these contributions later became important in the development
of police organizations and criminal investigation in the United States.
Within the criminal investigation process, investigators and detectives frequently
use various scientific methods found in criminalistics to help identify suspects,
evidence, and collect information; all of which is used to convict criminal
offenders. Criminalistics draws from diverse disciplines such as geology, physics,
chemistry, biology and mathematics, to study physical evidence related to crime.
If it is suspected that a person has died from poisoning, for example, a toxicologist,
who specializes in identifying and recognizing poisons and their physiological
effects on humans and animals, can assist in the investigation. Experts in other
areas of criminalistics such as botany, forensic pathology, entomology and archaeology
may also provide helpful information to criminal investigators.
This chapter introduces the reader to the history and milestone developments
of criminalistics and criminal investigations. In addition to the history of
police and criminal investigative organizations, discussions on the creation
and practice of personal identification systems such as anthropometry, fingerprint
identification and DNA typing are provided. An overview on the use of firearms
identification in criminal investigation concludes the chapter. Writing about
these two separate but intertwined fields is a difficult task. Many volumes
have been written on each of these fields, but the space that can be devoted
to them here is limited. Sufficient broad perspectives and supporting details,
however, are provided in this chapter to allow those intrigued by these subjects
to independently pursue their interest with a basic working knowledge.