There is a close working relationship between law enforcement and forensic science, as well as law enforcement and the communities in which they work. Policing, by nature, requires a certain degree of respect from the public. Deteriorating relationships between communities and the police as well as increased media attention of aggressive police behavior has decreased the level of trust and respect the general public has for law enforcement. The professional culture must take steps to work with the communities it serves, not against them. The effect of the lack of public trust toward law enforcement is an increased risk for officers, resulting in a higher probability that misconduct will occur as officers rely on their ability to utilize discretion in situations. Officers should strive to work with the communities, forensic scientists, and the judicial system to create the highest standards of expectation for the investigative process.
James J. Nolan, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, where he teaches courses on the topic of crime and social control. His research currently focuses on urban policing, intergroup relations, and the measurement of crime. He has been the recipient of research funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, the American Statistical Association, and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Nolan is also currently serving on a National Academy of Sciences panel on modernizing the nation’s crime statistics.
Joshua C. Hinkle, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Hinkle’s research interests include evidence-based policing, the disorder-crime nexus, fear of crime, and experimental methods. His research has been funded by the National Institute of Justice and the National Science Foundation and appears in journals such as Criminology, Criminology & Public Policy, and Journal of Experimental Criminology.