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Swanson, Criminal Investigation 8/e
Criminal Investigation, 8/e
Charles R. Swanson, University of Georgia
Neil C. Chamelin, Assistant State Attorney, Second Judicial Circuit
Leonard Territo, University of South Florida- Tampa

The Evolution of Criminal Investigation and Criminalistics

Chapter Overview

        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.