With the intense popularity of the “Law and Order” series, we have all seen it. We have seen how the detectives wait for and rely upon crime lab employees’ findings in order to move forward with a sexual assault, homicide or other type of case. While some of the drama of the TV program is unrealistic, the importance of crime lab tests is not a dramatization.
That point makes a recent study’s findings troubling. Last year, the attorney and academic researchers who studied crime labs nationwide published their conclusion that the facilities need some work in order for crime suspects to get a fair shake at justice within the U.S. criminal justice system.
According to the debate-provoking study, the following changes must be implemented regarding U.S. crime labs:
- Crime labs should be run privately, without any affiliation with police departments. Such a connection between police and crime lab employees creates a conflict of interest that puts alleged offenders’ futures at risk. Police departments are often looking for incriminating evidence in order to portray their team’s skills as exemplary and, therefore, get more funding.
- Crime lab employees must be trained and certified based on a national standard. By more formally regulating the work done in the labs, suspects who get involved in the criminal justice system will have a better chance at justice no matter where they live or who is handling their cases.
According to sources, outdated and unethical lab work results in faulty evidence and false convictions. Subjectivity among lab employees is dangerous to the freedoms of suspects of various violent and sex crimes around the country and will be mitigated by implementing the above changes.
That argument, however, is up for debate, and many crime lab directors reject the position that their labs are faulty. They believe the study was headed by academics who have no true idea about what is actually done in crime labs. It’s an ongoing discussion between the scholarly field and crime lab scientists; we will post an update as the study effects changes in the field.
azcentral.com: “Arizona crime labs need reform experts say,” Dustin Gardiner, 19 Nov. 2010