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January 28th, 2006

Two Suggestions for the Cold Case Squad

The NYPD might want to recruit one or more detectives with a background in science for the Cold Case Squad, to overcome a general reluctance within the police department to embrace new scientific methods of police work. “Every single crime scene should be examined by a scientist,” Dr. Robert Shaler suggests. “ME’s are not forensic scientists. The medical-legal investigators who go out to crime scenes instead of ME’s are not forensic scientists. They are there to certify that it’s an ME case, that the death is a homicide. You need someone who understands all areas of forensic science.” Perhaps fewer cases would go cold in the first place. “The American Academy of Forensic Sciences has for the first time accredited crime scene analysis,” Shaler told me. “It’s a first step. That means, the people who go to crime scenes have to be accredited as investigators to do this kind of scientific work.”

The NYPD may not pay enough to attract scientists to police work, however. You never know. It’s interesting work. I wonder if they ever recruit at MIT? Their recruiting ads always target macho men. I’d love to see ads trying to entice brainy men and women (not that people can’t be both, of course, and not that they don’t already have lots of brainy people, etc., etc., etc.).

The Cold Case Squad could also use more detectives with expertise in information retrieval. The average detective is not completely apprised of all the databases currently available through other arms of law enforcement, government, on the internet, in libraries and privately. They had a couple of guys who were good at this but they retired.

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