1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · Research

The use of forensic DNA technologies in police practice

Dana Wilson-Kovacs and Christine Hauskeller

Start date

2010-04-01

Background

This area of research developed from Egenis work on genomics and identity politics, in particular the engagements with the National Policing Improvement Agency following the workstream event in October 2008. In the current drive toward evidence-based policing, which is modelled partly on successful innovations in the health sector, investigative techniques may benefit from a more systematic incorporation of new scientific technologies. This empirically grounded analysis explores the modelling of faster DNA testing kits in a current joint effort by law enforcement agencies and the industry supplying forensic technology to improve police work.

Affiliated to this study is David Wyatt’s ESRC-funded PHD study. , which looks at the training provisions and practices of Crime Scene Examiners in England and Wales.

Aims

The study sought to capture the practices surrounding the development of forensic technologies in everyday policing, with an emphasis on the general utility, cost effectiveness and the expectations these technologies raise. The role of DNA in crime control and detection was examined through the ways in which future usages of genetic evidence are envisaged and designed. The findings are intended to enhance existing social science debates on the use of DNA technologies and inform evidence-based policies on the use of science and technology in police practice.

Methods

Dr Hauskeller initiated and supervised this project. Dr Wilson-Kovacs participated in internal workshops and carried out in-depth interviews with members of the police force and forensic services. A documentary analysis of texts from different sources (forensic genetics literature, relevant police and government documents, documents on the development of required standards for the collection, processing and storage of DNA samples etc) will accompany the empirical research and frame the interpretation and presentation of findings.

Data Collection

Two sets of data were produced:

  1. 13 qualitative, in-depth interviews with stakeholders at different levels of seniority (representatives of the NPIA and Home Office, members of the police force and of scientific support units
  2. 2011 Mass Observation Autumn/Winter Directive, Part 1, ‘Crime and Investigation’.

In addition we have used a set of existing data (replies to the 2006 Spring Directive, Part 1 ‘Genes, Genetics and Cloning’, for our 2012 publication).

Publications

Wilson-Kovacs, D., 'The future of police forensics', Britain in 2011, Annual Magazine of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), 93, November 2010.

Wilson-Kovacs, D., Wyatt, D and Hauskeller, C., 'A Faustian Bargain?' Public voices on forensic DNA testing and the national DNA database, New Genetics & Society, 31(3): 285-298.

Presentations

Wilson-Kovacs, D. ‘Clearly necessary’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘engrossing’: Mass Observation correspondents discuss forensic DNA technologies’, Mass Observation Anniversary Conference, University of Sussex, July 2012

Wilson-Kovacs, D. ‘The rise of the machines: Anticipation, provision & demand in the expansion of ADAPT’, ESRC Genomic Network Conference, British Library, London, April 2012.

Wilson-Kovacs, D. ‘Accelerated DNA Profiling Technologies (ADAPT) and the transformation of forensic genetics in police investigations’, British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Leeds University, April 2012.

Wilson-Kovacs, D., Wyatt, D. ‘A Faustian Bargain?’ Public voices on forensic DNA technologies and the national DNA database British Sociological Association Annual Conference, LSE, London, April 2011.

Hauskeller, C. and Wilson-Kovacs, D. 'The use of forensic DNA technologies in police practice', ADAPT All Suppliers Workshop, National Policing Improvement Agency, Coventry, November 2010.