The aim of this essay is to explain the behind the scenes actions from a book of my personal interest: ‘Police technology’ by Raymond Foster which contains a description of technological tools and forensics mentioned by Raymond, a retired law enforcement official. This book gave Raymond immense popularity due to his elaborate research on the subject, and compilations of the book are still taught in policing schools around the country, e.g. modern tools used in police investigations such as computerization, the use of the Internet and equipping police personnel with the right knowledge and skills to utilize technology (Foster, 2004).
Raymond Foster has been a police officer with the LAPD a highly experienced cop who has contributed immensely in his career towards high profile police investigation cases, giving several years to research activity at police academies and has been actively instructing law enforcement students across the country. Currently a successful author, Foster has always been a keen enthusiast for information technology tools and techniques and has greatly elaborated on its role in police investigation cases.
Foster’s “Police Technology” is a core reference book for anyone who is interested in police investigation methods and how technology plays a critical role in the solving of criminal cases. In doing so, Foster has compiled his own everyday experiences with technological tools to discuss forensics, hi-tech crime, using technological aids in conducting investigations and communication devices to connect field personnel (Foster, 2004). The fictional character of Sherlock Holmes is a key element in Foster’s investigative brilliance as he extensively relies on the Flemish detective’s encyclopedic knowledge of tobacco, from which he’s able to churn out data for the crime scene (Foster, Forward, 2007). Foster analogously compares Holmes’ intuitive ability with modern-day forensics which relies on DNA as the core database builder for re-enacting a crime scene (Foster, 2004). In a similar vein, Foster has opined about the “Theory of impressions” which suggests that any crime scene involves the criminal leaving behind an impression in the form of several fingerprints due to his contact with various surfaces. The data is later collected to be analyzed separately using specialized software, thus, virtually re-enacting the entire crime scene (Foster, 2004). Thus, Foster argues that technological tools have become an extremely crucial element in successfully completing an investigation.
In order to take a deeper look into the importance of technology as a tool in police investigations, the author has charted the course of various technological advancements throughout the course of history (Foster, 2004). It begins with an era between the 1840’s and 1890’s which saw several advancements including the telegraph, the telephone and electricity. Then came the professional model era which led to advancements such as freeing the police system from political control, setting up independent police cells with communication devices and the extensive usage of fingerprint scanning (Foster, 2004).
The last era from the 1960’s onwards saw the advancement of police technology through computerization and extensive database building activities (Foster, 2004). Today, the Police is able to recreate an entire crime scene by simultaneously checking fingerprint records from a nationwide database. This is indeed the culmination of scientific progress in this desired mandatory tool in conducting investigations has become more pronounced (Foster, 2004). Indeed, technological advancements have fundamentally changed the American policing system and have had immense impact on criminal justice. Foster believes investing in R&D efforts in policing technology pays off well.
The main findings concerning Foster’s research on the historical development of technological tools in crime investigation prove that it’s not just ordinary tools like DNA analysis which should be used to conduct crime investigation, but greater importance should be attached to R&D efforts behind it. A whole institutionalised apparatus comprising the police, judiciary etc. is in urgent need of overhaul if true progress has to be achieved on a technological front (Foster, 2004). Apart from qualitative data derived from FBI sources, Foster has applied his independent mind to get to the nitty-gritty of crime investigation pertaining to technological growth.
Criminology is a multidisciplinary study that performs an exploratory analysis of facts that are closely related to the research information for a particular case study. My main purpose of choosing ‘policing technolgy’ as a focus topic, was to investigate special findings that are not very commonly heard of. Dr. Foster’s book has introduced me to some new facts. For instance, in order to stop a fleeing car, the Police may use technological tools such as radio communications and RFID-based tagging systems to net criminals (Foster, 1998). By scratching the surface on crime trends and technological tools to arrest them, Foster has yielded extensive reliable data for further understanding of the issues at hand. This topic has a lot of scope for further development as demonstrated through discussions underlining qualitative study, and ethical concerns of these methods. In fact, Foster himself has come down critically on a few controversial tools such as bio-implants, and extensive reliance on lie-detection tests, which he believes does not always yield satisfactory results (Foster, 2004).
The subject of “policing technology” has gained national media attention in recent years, especially due to TV reality shows such as Cops. Ivestigators have arrived at different study models to gain a more complete understanding of the issues being discussed in this field. Foster believes that technology should exist as the preferred means of carrying out an investigation, but nothing can really replace the intelligence and presence of mind of the human investigator (Foster, 2004). He proffers plenty of examples to clarify this point. E.g. the discretion of an investigator whether or not to use lie detector on an individual still depends on his ability to read the suspect’s mind, and resort to minimal force to get the results (Foster, 2004). Foster believes that if despite the availability of cutting-edge technology, an investigator has to apply excessive force, he’s falling flat on several counts (Foster, 2004).
In his book, Foster also touches on the phenomena of crime itself as well as the psychology of the criminals. The basic question in this regard: why do criminals turn to crime. According to him, there are a number of contributing factors such as lack of good parenting, financial circumstances, drug abuse, peer relationships etc. which have to be taken into account.
To understand the consequences of such offences, it is essential to clarify the vital statistics in achieving a qualitative description of the offending criminals. Based on FBI records and Foster’s independent evaluation, the following parameters have been identified (Foster, 2004): 1) Mean perceived likelihood of prosecution by prior arrests. 2) Mean perceived likelihood of prosecution by type of injury. 3) Arrest frequencies for different offence categories. 4) Felony type by gender in percentage. 5) Felony type by race in percentage. 6) Felony type by prior arrests in percentage. 7) Adjudication in percentage. 8) Adjudication by felony type. 8) Adjudication by gender. 9)Adjudication by disposition.
Foster believes crimes need to be addressed from the right platform in which they are being investigated. They are both a social as well as an individual phenomena. The conventional idea is that poverty, drugs and bad family values are the biggest catalyst for delinquent behaviour: only on closer scrutiny, it can be postulated that aspirations play the most important role in the making of a juvenile criminal. It is this aspect that is least studied: it is this aspect that has been often misunderstood, rejected and confused under statistics (police records, etc.).
As a final conclusion, it must be kept in mind that juvenile offenders have a better scope for improvement than other criminals because of the absence of a criminal past. Without negating their high rates of incidence, it must be kept in mind that there is a relative low incidence of crime in associated areas if proper education is made available.
From a criminologist point of view, this vacuum throws open a set of veritable challenges and a new research question can dominate the entire spectrum of issues dealing with present crime reform system. Dr. Foster believes since the present state of affairs tends to recriminalize juvenile offenders, it is only through a close assessment of their aspirational values and ‘internal psychology’ that further research is possible.
Foster, R. (2004). Police Technology. Princeton, NJ: Prentice Hall Publishers.
Foster, R. (1998). The Evolution and Development of Police Technology. Web.
Foster, R. (2007). Foreword. In R. Snow, Technology and Law Enforcement: From Gumshoe to Gamma Rays (pp. ix-xi). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.