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'Sometimes I give up on the report and ring the scientist': Bridging the gap between what forensic scientists write and what police investigators read


Howes, LM, 'Sometimes I give up on the report and ring the scientist': Bridging the gap between what forensic scientists write and what police investigators read, Policing and Society, 27, (5) pp. 541-559. ISSN 1043-9463 (2017) [Refereed Article]

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© 2015 Taylor & Francis

DOI: doi:10.1080/10439463.2015.1089870


Despite increased use of forensic science in police investigations, relatively few studies have examined how well forensic science is communicated to police investigators. This study explored practitionersí perceptions of the effectiveness of such communication in Australian jurisdictions. Sixty-five participants, consisting of police (investigators, n = 28; and liaison officers, n = 10) and case-reporting scientists (forensic biologists, n = 16; and trace evidence examiners, n = 11), participated in semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analysed thematically and the communication process from crime scene to court was examined in light of a conceptual model of forensic science communication. Oneway communication was appropriate throughout the process for most routine cases. However, in other cases, two-way communication was important. Specifically, participants viewed discussion as necessary for police investigators, to facilitate on-the-job learning about forensic science generally, and to clarify aspects of forensic science in particular cases, especially serious cases, or when the science was complex, unfamiliar to investigators, or relied upon to advance the case. In addition, participants considered discussion helpful for forensic scientists in understanding the information needs of police investigators, and essential at the managerial level to ensure that operational priorities relating to forensic science were aligned. The implications include the need for further refinement of written reports and online systems, and more explicit recognition of the value of discussion as one component of effective communication about forensic science, both to enhance professional development, and to prevent information loss.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Forensic science; expert evidence; communication; police investigators
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Police administration, procedures and practice
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Criminal justice
UTAS Author:Howes, LM (Dr Loene Howes)
ID Code:104258
Year Published:2017 (online first 2015)
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2015-11-05
Last Modified:2017-12-05

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