Computers and Technology In The Criminal Justice System Sean Galligan Montclair State University

November 14th, 2010 Computers and technology play a very important role in the criminal justice system. The advances being made today help police solve crimes faster and with more accuracy than ever before. In this paper I will discuss, first, the history of technology in policing, describing the infancy of computers as well as other areas, second, the databases used today in the criminal justice system, focusing on how crime data is accumulated, and thirdly, the technology being used today by police all over the world. The first think I am going to talk about is the history of technology in policing. It is hard to believe but at one time, a multiple shot pistol was thought to be the cutting edge of technology. When you think about it, we have made giant strides in this field, from the creation of handcuffs, to the application of DNA testing. There are several era¶s associated with developments in policing. These are the Political, Progressive, Reform, and Protest era¶s. I will begin with the Political Era. The Political Era of policing took place in the early 1900¶s. During this period, the police were controlled by politicians, hence, the political era. Technology at this time was very basic. The most technologically advanced things the officers had were guns and nightsticks. There were no patrol cars, no instant communication between officers and headquarters. There was virtually no technological advancement during this period of policing. Also, because of the lack of technology, there was no real outcry for advancement. No one was trying to get more advanced things for police at this time, there was no reason to. Next is the Progressive Era of policing. This era saw the rise of technology. There were many advances during this era due to that fact that many people were trying to reform the police

system. Some notable advancement were, the first fingerprinting system, the first juvenile delinquency center, cars and motorcycles were used by patrolmen, and the introduction of the police radio. These are just a few of the advancements of this time period, the most significant of these being the introduction of the patrol car, and the emergence of the police radio. These two things revolutionized the criminal justice system. Now that these things were being used, many doors opened to police. They could patrol greater areas because of patrol cars. The cars also gave police the ability to transport prisoners in a timely fashion. All of these inventions are great, but they pale in contrast to the radio. The radio was and still is one of the most important tools of the police. With the radio, police could call for backup, locate a suspect, communicate with each other and headquarters, the list is huge. These advancements set the groundwork for more inventions later to come that would help police even more. Thirdly is the Reform Era. Like the Progressive Era, this time period also saw a lot of technological advances. For example, the first crime laboratory was used, the first polygraph test was given, and the first use of cyanide gas to execute prisoners occurred. These are monumentus advances. The introduction of the crime lab is very important. We have all see the show CSI, well that show is possible because of the introduction of the lab during the reform era. The lab was responsible for using ballistics, fingerprinting, and blood analysis and trace evidence to solve crimes. The polygraph is also something that is still being used today to discover lies. This test is a very important part of our interrogation processes and is used internally by police forces on their own agents annually. Also, the use of cyanide gas in capital punishment was very important. The gas chamber is the preferred type of execution for prisoners in several states today.

Finally, the Protest Era. This era encompasses all advances from the µ70¶s to the present. That includes a ton of developments. This era saw the implementation of computers in the criminal justice system. Computers are used, to enter criminals into the system to keep track of them, find current criminals, research earlier crimes, compile date, in crime labs, discover evidence, the list is basically endless. Not just computers have been developed during this time period; most of the new technology being used today has been created in the past thirty years, from police having computers in their cars to DNA testing. The era we are currently in is responsible for the most technological advances in policing ever. The next thing I am going to talk about is the databases that are used in the criminal justice system to compile data. There are several surveys and reports that are added together for the police to analyze. The first database is called the UCR. The UCR or the Uniform Crime Report is a report given to the FBI by police departments around the country. Each police department sends information about crimes that have been reported and then they are compiled to make the report. The UCR focuses on certain crimes such as murder, rape, assault, burglary, arson, and larceny. Once the FBI receives this data they make the report. This report is helpful because if the authorities know what crimes are being committed and how often they are being committed, they will be able to focus their resources on the places where they need to be focused. The next database is called the NCVS. This stands for the National Crime Victimization Survey. This is a survey sent out to people in the hope that they will fill it out and send it back. The survey asks mainly about domestic violence crimes and crimes that are committed in the home. The problem with this survey is that it is not very accurate because not many people

respond to them. Of all the databases in the criminal justice system, this one is the most flawed. With the few responses that are given, law enforcement agencies compile the data and are able to hone in on what areas need help. Another database used in the criminal justice system is the NIBRS. The National Incident Based Reporting System collects data on each incident and arrest under 22 categories. This database is much like the UCR but differs slightly. That difference is the amount of detail used by each. The NIBRS is much more detailed than is counterpart. It takes into account many more crimes that the UCR does so it has a wider range of data. The biggest problem with NIBRS is that all police departments do not participate in it. So, naturally, the data is incomplete, which is a serious problem because the authorities do not know everything that is going on. One of the most important databases used by the FBI is the CODIS or the Combined DNA Index System. This system holds all the forensic data collected by law enforcement officials. Obviously, this system is very important to policing today because of how heavily the criminal justice system relies on DNA to be used as evidence. The system also allows international police units to exchange their DNA data. Meaning that police in the U.S. could share their data with police is Australia as long as they were both using this system. The next database I am going to talk about is called the CJ AFIS or the Criminal Justice Fingerprint Identification System. This system too is very important because it keeps track of all the fingerprints that the police have on record. It is important because with it, the police can track criminals through their fingerprint records if they need to locate a suspect. For example, on the U.S.-Mexico border, police use fingerprinting every time they catch someone trying to cross the

border illegally. If that person gets caught again, they get their fingerprints checked to see if this is their first or second offense. The last database I am going to talk about is called the NCIC or the National Crime Information Center. This database is used by the FBI to track crime related information. Meaning, they track the information that is put into the database to understand crimes, criminals, and how to stop future crimes. This database is accessible to all law enforcement agencies. There are two categories in this database, personal and property. Some of the things covered in the person category are; sex offenders, fugitives, illegal immigrants, missing persons, arrest warrants, people under police protection, people being monitored by intelligence agencies, and gangs, just to name a few. Some of the things covered by the property category are; firearms, firearms records, stolen parts, stolen vehicles, ect. As you can see, this database may be the most important and most informative of them all. Finally, I am going to talk about the technology being used today in the criminal justice system. Technology has had to be relied upon more and more as it advances and bigger and better things are being invented. There are countless examples of how not only our criminal justice system relies on technology, but of every other country in the worlds criminal justice system relies on it. Without international criminal justice technology, international policing agencies, such as Interpol, would not be able to catch international fugitives such as terrorists. Technology plays a pivotal role in the criminal justice system today. By watching the television shows CSI and Law & Order, you can tell that the police are now using the most sophisticated technology they can get their hands on. Like I said earlier, DNA testing is now a big part of that technology, as is, fingerprinting, and video surveillance, and genetic research.

Forensic science has become huge in policing. It can be used to determine how a person died, how long a person has been dead, identifying marks. Also, it can be used on rape victims to find out who their attacker was. Also, if a person has been arrested for a crime, forensic science sometimes can determine if they are guilty or innocent. Computers are an integral part of the system. As I have said earlier, all of the databases used by law enforcement agencies are used often and have been very helpful. The compilation of data is critical to knowing how, when, and where to stop crime. In summation, computers and technology play a pivotal role in the criminal justice system. Our technology began with a multiple shot pistol back in the 1800¶s and skyrocketed from there. Throughout the history of policing, we have made advancement after advancement and that has not stopped to this day. Our history is full of technological advances. Next come our databases. Databases are crucial to the study of crime. Without them law enforcement agencies would not know what areas of crime need more manpower and money. And they would not know in which areas they were doing well and should keep up the good work. The databases are the best way to compile all of the needed information and to keep track of it. Finally, the technology we are using today, is sometimes hard to believe. Things like DNA testing would have been a joke thirty to forty years ago. And forensic science has become one of the most important facets of our criminal justice system.

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