Improving criminal investigation

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

There are shows on cable TV that feature scientific crime investigation in the United States. American forensic experts can lift fingerprints even from the skin of a corpse. Because of the experts are sophisticated forensic skills and technology, even walls and floors from which bloodstains have been washed off can lead to the conviction of the killer.

You watch these shows and wonder if The Gambia law enforcement agencies will ever achieve the same degree of sophistication in criminal investigation. If our lawmen relied more on science and technology rather than testimonies and third degree, our streets would be safer. No need for cops to present a gaggle of witnesses, some of whom later retract their statements and thus muddle up a criminal case.

Unfortunately, law enforcement officers are often more preoccupied with co-zying up to people who can endorse their promotion or assignment to a juicy post rather than improving their methods of criminal investigation. A number of Gambian law enforcers have been trained in scientific criminal investigation abroad. Do they get assigned to positions where they can practice what they learned? Priorities are askew; instead of buying cutting-edge crime laboratory equipment, we buy them big cars.

For a while we had the impression that at least our lawmen weren’t too far behind in investigating disappearances. But the observation by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances makes us wonder.

Not surprising, therefore, it is taking our investigators an eternity to even identify the bodies exhumed and to press criminal charges against the suspects. 

The nation cannot and should not rely forever on foreign assistance in investigating or cracking a criminal case.

Given the peace and order problems besetting the nation, the government should consider making a substantial investment in improving methods of criminal investigation.

This will require not just the acquisition of state-of-the-art crime laboratory equipment but also a thorough grounding of law enforcers in the ways of modern criminal investigation.

However, as recommended by the UN Working Group, “there is a critical and urgent need” to improve the forensic capacity and technical means of our investigators and the government needs technical cooperation and assistance in this respect.

“Nothing matters but the facts. Without them, the science of criminal investigation is nothing more than a guessing game.”

Blake Edwards