A review and recommendations for the integration of forensic expertise within police cold case reviews

Published date24 December 2019
Date24 December 2019
AuthorBrendan Chapman,David Keatley,Giles Oatley,John Coumbaros,Garth Maker
subjectMatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Public policy & environmental management,Policing,Criminal justice
A review and recommendations for the
integration of forensic expertise within
police cold case reviews
Brendan Chapman, David Keatley, Giles Oatley, John Coumbaros and Garth Maker
Purpose Cold case reviewteams and the processes that they adopt in their endeavour to solvehistoric
crimes are varied and largelyunderreported. Of the limited literature surroundingthe topic of cold case
reviews, the focus is on clearancerates and the selection of cases for review. While multiple reports and
reviews have been undertaken and recommend that the interface between investigators and forensic
scientistsbe improved, there is little evidence of cold case teams comprisedof a mixture of investigators
and scientists or experts. With the growing reliance on forensic science as an aide to solvability, the
authors propose that the inclusion of forensic scientists tothe central cold case investigation may be a
criticalfactor in future success. The paper aims to discuss this issue.
Design/methodology/approach To support the proposedapproach, the authors conducted a review
of the current literatureseeking insight into the reported make-up of cold case teams.In conjunction with
this, the authorsreviewed a number of commissioned reports intendedto improve cold case reviews and
Findings While many of the reviewedreports and recommendations suggested better integrationwith
scientists and external expertise, little evidence of this in practice was reported within published
literature. Open dialogueand cross pollination between police investigators and forensic scientists are
likely to mitigate biases, inform case file triage and better equip investigations with contemporary and
cutting-edge scientific solutions to the evidence analysis for cold cases. Furthermore, with respect to
scientists within academia, large pools of resources by way of student interns or researchers may be
availableto assist resource-sparse policing jurisdictions.
Originality/value To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first peer-reviewed recommendation for the
consideration of integratedforensic scientists within a cold case review team. Multiple reports suggest
the need for closerties, but it is the anecdotal experience of the authors that the benefitsof a blended task
force approachmay yield greater success.
Keywords Collaboration, Expertise, Forensic science, Cold case review, Cold case team, Solvability
Paper type Conceptual paper
Cold case review teams have emerged out of both a backlog of unsolved cases and an
evolution in forensic testing capabilities allowing investigators an opportunity to revisit cold
cases in attempts to close them. While novel approaches in forensics may appear to
provide police investigators with a scientific solution to cases, the relationship between
methods and outcomes is less clear. Improper understanding or interpretation of forensic
tools and their results may hinder rather than help investigations. The current review will
focus on the interconnection between forensic testing and cold case investigation. We aim
to highlight the benefits of an integrated academicpractitioner relationship wherein cold
case teams may benefit from the presence of expert forensic scientist assistance in case
review and investigations.
Brendan Chapman is
based at the Department of
Medical, Molecular and
Forensic Sciences,
Murdoch University, Perth,
David Keatley is based at
Researchers in Behaviour
Sequence Analysis
(ReBSA), Nottingham, UK
and School of Law,
Murdoch University, Perth,
Giles Oatley is based at
School of Science,
Engineering and
Information Technology,
Federation University
Australia, Ballarat,
John Coumbaros is based
at Forensic Science
Laboratory, ChemCentre,
Bentley, Australia.
Garth Maker is based at the
Department of Medical,
Molecular and Forensic
Sciences, Murdoch
University, Perth, Australia.
Received 16 September 2019
Revised 15 November 2019
Accepted 26 November 2019
DOI 10.1108/JCP-09-2019-0038 VOL. 10 NO. 2 2020, pp. 79-91, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829 jJOURNAL OF CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGY jPAGE 79

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