Contamination during crime scene investigation represents a huge challenge in the contemporary justice system. In a research carried out by Fonnelop, Johannessen, Egeland, and Gill (2016), it was found that 16 criminal investigators in 16 different cases found traces of their DNA in the evidence samples collected. Furthermore, the six police investigators who were not involved with the particular cases could also find traces of their DNA in the samples gathered. Additionally, the six investigators were unable to account for this occurrence ((Fonnelop et.al, 2016).). Besides the individuals directly at the heart of an investigation, crime scene contamination may also be caused by other people who access the crime scene before the investigators do. These include curious onlookers or the people who raised awareness of criminal activity. This paper analyses the existing forms of contamination and their causes, before offering suggestions on the ways through which the issue can be remedied.
There are several ways in which crime scenes are potentially contaminated. In this regard, Marshall (2008) recognizes two forms of contamination during the investigation of crime scenes. These include physical contamination and digital contamination. According to Rutty, Hopwood and Tucker (2003) physical contamination can occur through inappropriate DNA and fiber transfer by human clothes. Clothes effectiveness as transfer agents stems from their ability to hold human epithelial cells. The cells are found in the hair, skin, and respiratory systems, and can be shed during movement or any other activity. While the researchers acknowledged the central role of protective gear in preventing such contamination, they were appreciative of its limitation and contribution to contamination in special cases. For instance, scratching or touching one’s face using gloves was found to slough cells increasing the rate of contamination (Rytty et al., 2003).
In the same light, equipment played a significant role in physical crime scene contamination (Marshall 2008). The investigators reported a limitation in the number of documenting and processing equipment which compelled them to share. Occasionally, investigators would transfer the equipment from a scene to another without thorough inspection for fibers, hair, or biological fluid (Marshall 2008). Consequently, evidence from one scene was often found at subsequent scenes if the investigations were carried out using common equipment.
Similarly, environmental conditions like snow, sun, rain, temperature, and wind were found to compromise crime scene investigations by destroying evidence. For example, water dilutes biofluids like blood and blurs footsteps (Marshall 2008). This would make it impossible for the investigators to gather accurate information about such evidence when it rains. In the same light, exposure of fluids to hot temperatures leads to decomposition and decontamination, which compromises the analysis of the evidence (Marshall 2008). Wind may also lead to similar results by introducing new elements into the crime scene or blowing away items which are admissible as evidence. While environmental effects are more pronounced for outdoor criminal scenes, they can also affect indoor scenes (Marshall 2008).
In line with Marshall (2008), digital contamination of evidence at the crime scene involved the destruction of important evidence through technological means. Contemporary technology has made it possible for criminals to create self-destructing devices and software (Marshall 2008). For instance, during crime scene investigation criminals may rely on technology like ‘sniffers’ to trigger destructive software when new devices are detected in the vicinity (Marshall 2008). Similarly, a wireless pairing of equipment may trigger self-destruction if any of the machines is confiscated and separated from its paired piece (Marshall 2008). Such technological advances have led to an increase in crime scene contamination, especially when evidence involves knowledgeable criminals (Marshall 2008).
Rytty et al. (2003) acknowledge that most participants in the justice system are unaware or dismissive of the existing contamination issues. These authors add that contamination is not restricted to crime scenes. Consequently, the authors advise investigators to embrace accountability and apply best practice processes throughout the investigative process. According to Rytty et al. (2003), investigators should re-evaluate their crime scene practices, identify weaknesses in the existing approaches, propose and implement enhancements, and monitor the effectiveness constantly. Equally, the researchers recommend the decontamination of equipment before and after a crime scene investigation (Rytty et al., 2003). Some of the equipment which they consider important to decontaminate include clothing, photography equipment, processing equipment, note pads, and sketching equipment Rytty et al. (2003). By decontaminating equipment, investigators will get rid of hairs, biological fluids, and fibers which may compromise the available evidence. Fonnelop et al. (2016), recommend that investigators should use protective clothing like masks, gloves, hair nets, and lab coats during crime scene investigation. The investigators are also advised to change the protective gear regularly, to reduce the inherent risks. Finally, Fonnelop et al. (2016) recommend staff training to increase awareness and responsiveness to crime scene contamination. In line with their argument, staff should be educated on the existing means of contamination and prevention practices.
Evidently, crime scene contamination during investigation remains a critical issue in the contemporary world. This contamination can be classified into two groups, depending on the agents of destruction. Physical contamination is caused by physical agents, while digital contamination is caused by technological agents. Ignorance and negligence have extensively impeded best practice processes in crime scene investigation. Therefore, it is important to educate investigators about existing contamination risks. Investigators should equally identify weaknesses in the prevailing approaches, propose and implement enhancements, and monitor the effectiveness of their processes.Free research paper samples and term paper examples available online are plagiarized. They cannot be used as your own paper, even a part of it. You can order a high-quality custom research paper on your topic from expert writers:
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Fonnelop, A. E., Johannessen, H., Egeland, T., & Gill, P. (2016). Contamination during criminal investigation: Detecting police contamination and secondary DNA transfer from evidence bags. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 23, 121–129.
Marshall, A.M. (2008). Digital forensics: Digital evidence in criminal investigations. West Sussex: John Wiley& Sons Ltd.
Ruty, G. N., Hopwood, A., & Tucker, V. (2003). The effectiveness of protective clothing in the reduction of potential DNA contamination of the scene of crime. International Journal of Legal Medicine ,117, 170–174