The role of science in criminal investigation


Written by: Excell Pedulla Alcantara

The current state of criminal investigation into which our country is immersed can be defined by one powerful term: crisis. Thus, in the social sense of the term, it can be understood the situation in which a system or organization is not able to overcome its practical challenges, unless it undergoes radical changes.

In this regard, there is little doubt about the statement of Jean Grab, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico, in the sense that “the United Nations has verified that Mexico’s forensic services have been exceeded in at least three senses: the amount of work they face, and the material conditions to perform their tasks and the technical skills they require.”1

The massive inconsistency between the overload of legitimate work and the lack of conditions to carry it out is an issue that has been sufficiently observed and analyzed, and thus unresolved. As paradoxical as it may sound, the technical capabilities of criminal investigation staff have received far less attention than they deserve. In a world full of complexity, there is no doubt that scientific and technical skills are an indispensable component.

Investigating a crime is not an easy task. Even if you look at it, committing a crime entails a challenge to scientific research that is willing to search for the physical truth. Like any fact, causal investigation of a crime requires theoretical, methodological, and technical interdisciplinarity. Forensic science is one of the most important aspects of any criminal investigation, as it allows you to identify a suspect in a crime and determine exactly when and how the crime occurred.

The role of forensic science in criminal justice is very important and should be a champion in the process. Forensic scientists apply the knowledge and methodology of various disciplines of science backed by the scientific method to develop objective findings that can help clarify the circumstances of crime and provide tools to prosecute perpetrators or exonerate an innocent person.

Unfortunately, the required importance was not given in Mexico, according to the national census of government justice procurement developed by INEGI in 2020, during 2019 the entity with the largest number of units was only 44 units; In 12 entities, there are less than 200 people assigned to that unit and 44.8% of employees are concentrated in just 3 specialties.

To overcome the crisis forensic reform is necessary. Training and education of experts is important, but conditions must also be created so that scientists can play a more active role in criminal investigation and not subject scientific practice to lines of investigation already established for the case. In this sense, it is also essential that forensic reform ensures the independence of expert services, because in addition to the few physical and human resources at their disposal, forensic investigators face more and more obstacles that prevent them from performing their functions.

Researcher at the National Citizens Observatory.
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