The South Florida region, particularly Miami, has often served as the fictional backdrop to popular television series featuring law enforcement agents in pursuit of very smart criminals. A common thread of these shows, aside from stylish characters and glitzy visuals, is that investigators tend to have access to technology tools that seem to be ahead of their time. As far back as 1986, “Miami Vice” detectives used facial recognition to solve cases; in 2019, this technology is widely used by the United States Transportation Security Agency at Miami International Airport. As for “CSI: Miami,” a series that features gadgets galore, the SpheronVR camera system is currently used by forensic criminal investigators to find traces of DNA that would otherwise go undetected.
The field of criminal justice is always evolving in terms of technology, as it should be. This evolution enables greater protection of citizens and instills a better grasp of legal cases and rulings. As new technology is developed, criminal justice professionals look for ways to implement it in the field, laboratories, legal offices, and courtrooms. The interest in utilizing the latest technology in criminal justice enables police officers, forensic investigators, judges, lawyers, and researchers to use, understand, and benefit from these advancements.
Students who are considering a criminal justice career should stay up-to-date with advances that take place in their future field in order to have a firm understanding of the direction their careers may be taking. Let’s take a look at some recent advancements and their outcomes:
This has been one of the most important advances in the history of criminal justice, and it seems to be 50 percent of the plot of “CSI: Miami.” DNA profiling is no longer news by today’s standards; it has been used in forensic investigations since the early 1980s, and it has done more than identifying perpetrators. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, investigations enhanced by deoxyribonucleic acid testing can identify criminals with incredible accuracy, but what the DOJ seldom mentions is that criminal defense attorneys have successfully used DNA testing to reverse wrongful convictions, thereby absolving and exonerating clients from blame.
Forensic scientists now have the ability to access and test DNA samples from “cold case” criminal investigation files as long as there is physical evidence available. Amazingly enough, scientists can solve a decade-old crime and still absolve the innocent person who wrongfully served prison time. In 2019, Dutch scientists announced a method that would allow investigators to extract DNA evidence from spent bullet casings, something previously thought to have been impossible to accomplish.
The Internet of Crime
Some of the most potentially crippling threats to national security are found in the online world. Massive data breaches have become a way of life; for example, the Target, Marriott, and Bank of America breaches of recent years featured the theft of millions of personal records, including credit card numbers. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has noted that thousands of network intrusions are taking place on a daily basis; quite a few are prevented by information security systems, but what happens to the cases when breaches take place? How can suspects be tracked down and investigated?
The FBI recognized that computer crime was something that required closer scrutiny and resource allocation as far back as 2002 when the Cyber Division was created to investigate cybercrime. These days, this FBI division is involved in more than just tracking down hackers who break into networks or spread malware; the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement, for example, is making arrests that stem from investigations conducted in underground forums that suspects use to distribute controlled substances.
Cybercrime investigation is a practice that prospective criminal justice students should pay close attention to. Learn more about the Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice programs offered by Florida National University; contact one of our admissions counselors and inquire about our online education, scholarships, financial assistance, and evening class options.
New Laws Enforced by Technology
Public awareness of police brutality and misconduct cases has resulted in closer scrutiny of law enforcement agents. High profile cases such as the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida and of Michael Brown in Missouri prompted the enactment of laws calling for closer monitoring of police officers in the field. Dashboard cameras mounted on police cars became insufficient, thus giving way to the devices known as body cams, which are worn by police officers on their torsos or headgear. These cameras can provide a detailed understanding of an event as it unfolds in a first-person point of view.
As a republic that follows a common law system, it is difficult for the U.S. legal to enact nationwide bod cam legislation. Even when state governors sign laws to this effect, the rules for implementation and their potential forensic use must be decided on a jurisdictional basis, which means that it could come down to the level of police departments. In South Carolina, for example, forensic experts have lamented that the 2015 statewide body cam was riddled with loopholes, thus preventing raw footage to be entered as evidence in many court cases. In Ohio, some local police departments have encountered budgetary constraints that complicate the implementation of body cams.
Only time will tell when body cam laws will be finally implemented at police departments across the United States. In the meantime, criminal justice professionals are watching developments in this important legislative affair, for they may end up being responsible for collecting and interpreting footage captured by these devices.
Learn More About Criminal Justice Technology at FNU
If the excitement of improving criminal justice systems through technology gets your attention, you may be ready to learn more about criminal justice in the 21st century and beyond. Your first step towards a career in the criminal justice field can begin with enrollment at Florida National University. Our criminal justice programs can be fully completed online; this is ideal for students who are balancing work and family obligations. FNU offers scholarship and financial assistance to qualified students, and we fully accredited to grant associate and bachelor’s degrees that employers will recognize. Contact an admissions counselor today to get more information about our degree programs.