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Forensics & Technology 1

The Effect of Technology on Forensic Science and Police Investigations

Rebecca C. Reichel
Glen Allen High School

Forensics & Technology 2

The introduction of technology has not only changed the world, but has specifically
impacted the world of forensic science and police investigation. Because there have been
myriads of advancements made due to the technological advances of the last century and a half,
this essay will focus on a few key points, specifically Fingerprint Analysis, DNA Analysis, and
Crime Scene Photography. Crime scene investigation uses these and many other techniques in
order to gather as much accurate evidence as possible; therefore, although the focus is on the
three aforementioned techniques, others will be researched and referenced as well. This will all
accumulate to discover the specific consequences technology has had on the field of forensic
science, and as a side-effect, police investigations.
Fingerprint Analysis:
Using fingerprints as identification isnt new. In Babylon, fingers were pressed into clay
as records for business transactions, and China used ink to identify their children or as
signatures. However, it wasnt used for forensic purposes until the late 1850s, when Sir William
Herschel used fingerprints to reduce fraud infractions while posted in India. Then, in the 1880s,
Henry Faulds was connected to Sir Francis Galton, a eugenicist Galton printed a book in 1892
called Fingerprints, outlining the first fingerprint classification system. This was also the year
when fingerprints were first used in a criminal investigation, by police officer Juan Vucetich,
who named this system comparative dactyloscopy. Soon after, Sir Edward Henry added to
Galtons techniques, creating the Henry Classification System, leading to the creation of

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Scotland Yards first Fingerprint Bureau in 1901. In 1903, New York prisons added the use of
fingerprints, followed by the FBI.
Today, the world generally uses the AFIS system, a biometric, identification
methodology that uses digital technology to obtain, store, and analyze fingerprint data. This can
be found anywhere from the FBI to iPod passwords. Created by the Japanese National Police
Agency in the 1980s, AFIS worked faster and more accurately than a single person using pencil
and paper. However, all files were kept by each country separately until the creation of Integrated
AFIS (1999), which shared virtually all fingerprint files worldwide. With the creation of IAFIS,
local, state, and federal agencies can access fingerprints from all around the world within an
DNA Analysis:
DNA profiling, or DNA analysis, is one of the most modern tools used by criminal
investigators. DNA was first identified in the mid-1900s, although the forward progressions were
generally used for genetic fingerprinting identifying paternity through DNA. It wasnt until
1986 when British molecular biologist Alec Jeffreys used DNA to prove a 17 year old boy was
not the perpetrator of two rape-murders. The first American cased proved through DNA took
place in Orange County, Florida, in 1987. DNA profiling was not largely questioned until it
became more widespread by prosecutors, leading to the creation of two admissibility standards:
the Frye standard or the Daubert Standard.
In a 1923 court case, Frye v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that scientific
evidence must by sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular
field in which it belongs in order to be deemed admissible. This was the basis for the Frye

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Standard. The Daubert Standard came from a later Supreme Court Case in 1993, Daubert v
Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, in which they stated the thing from which the deduction is made
must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which
it belongs. (DvM)
At the very of the 20th century, advances were made in the field of DNA analysis, moving
from RLFP (restriction length fragment polymorphisms) to PCR (polymerase chain reaction)
DNA analysis. This came about in part from the creation of the FBIs Combined DNA Index
System (CODIS), required by the federal DNA identification Act of 1994 it placed added
pressured on laboratories to make sure the methods were sound and accurate. CODIS has been
expanded upon by various acts, including the Justice for All Act, signed by President George
Bush in 2004 in addition to promoting quality assurance, state crime labs were given access to
DNA profiles, expanding law enforcement powers at all levels of jurisdiction.
Accurately recording what a crime scene looks like can be incredibly important when
referring to cases of any degree, although cold cases have been known to be most impacted by
the recent improvements of photo quality. Forensic photography, or crime scene photography,
was quickly added to the tools used by investigators almost as soon as cameras were invented.
Alphonse Bertillon, a 19th century Frenchman, began the systematic photographing that is still
generally used today. Pictures are taken from various angles (aerial, mid-range, and grounded)
and from various angles in order to recreate the scene as accurately as possible. Essentially,
forensic photography is used to freeze the original crime scene, what it originally looked like
before any bodies or pieces of evidence are lifted from the crime scene, preserv[ing]the
relation of evidence to others. (HSW)

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The creation of digital photography was instrumental in the keeping of crime scene
photographs. In addition, color photography has greatly increased the ability to identify pieces of
trace evidence which, in black and white, would have been unidentifiable. However, black and
white photography is still used when distinguishing textures is essential to the case. The various
advancements of cameras have also benefited the photographs produced: filters, electronic
flashed, and lenses created specifically for mid-range or close-range photographs have all added
to the better quality pictures that are now produced. (HSW)
Due to the fact that this is a research-based question, there isnt much controversy
regarding many, if any, of the topics researched within this paper. Generally, however, the
sources agree that advancements have been greatly furthered by technology, even something as
simple as a color-camera. By using machines, accumulation, assessment, and accuracy of
evidence has increased exponentially, only helped by the international cooperation of all
countries. Although there is the danger that an incredibly tech-savvy individual or group could
break into police databases from around the world (due to the internet not necessarily being the
most secure of places), measures are in place through world-wide governments and enforcement
agencies to prohibit such an occurrence from happening. Overall, technology has created a form
of law enforcement across the globe that grows ever more accurate, creating a safer home for
Dowdey, S. (2008) How crime scene photography works. How Stuff Works. Retrieved from:

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The History of DNA (2011). The Former Forensic Science Laboratory. Retrieved from:
Pilant, L. (2000) Forensic Science: Bringing New Technology into the Crime Lab U.S.
Department of Justice
Rouse, M. Automated Fingerprint Identification System Retrieved from:
Watkins, H. (1994) Daubert v. Merrel Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Santa Clara High
Technology Law Journal
Watson, S. How Fingerprinting Works. Retrieved from: