Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science

New York Univ. 2012. 250p. ISBN 9780814790557. $35. LAW
Crime shows on television give the impression that the methods used in police work—fingerprinting, criminal lineups, and firearm identification—are sound, inargurable science. In this book, Harris (law, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing) says that's not so. Acknowledging that police and prosecutors do not want to convict the wrong suspect, Harris laments that these groups are reluctant to try new scientific approaches to evidence collection. He covers the reasons for resistance, both those that police and prosecutors give—such as cost and limits on autonomy—and the reasons Harris feels there is genuine resistance, particularly cognitive dissonance and group polarization, which create an "us versus everybody else" mind-set in the police world. Institutional and political barriers are also named, since police officers need arrests and prosecutors need convictions in order to advance in their careers. Harris also discusses how to bring about change.
VERDICT Primarily intended for those in law enforcement, forensic science, and the legal fields, this book details potential pitfalls of the way investigative work is conducted and suggests new alternatives.
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