Crime and causation, as well as the criminal mind in the 21st Century, have evolved over time and become more complex in nature; thus, the Criminal Justice System (CJS) faces great challenges when it comes to, for example, policing, criminal investigations, evidence collection, identifying criminals and making the right arrests, prosecution, sentencing, incarceration, reintegration, and crime prevention. All these processes are incumbent upon the initial stages of conducting a thorough and pristine criminal investigation if the CJS is to function optimally, efficiently, and with greater accuracy and success thus negating issues such as tainted evidence, wrongful arrest and incarceration, life or death sentences based on shoddy evidence, paroling of offenders who are not fully rehabilitated, reducing high costs incurred during these process and the list is endless but most importantly it will maintain the investigative integrity of all agencies within the CJS.
Criminology, Psychology, and Forensic Science have expounded in leaps and bounds, and even though they are independent disciplines, they are co-dependent during the criminal investigation process by lending their unique crime techniques and knowledge to solve crime. First responders, law enforcement officers, detectives, forensic experts, emergency services coroners, and sometimes behavioral analysts/profilers are usually the first to arrive at a crime scene, especially if it concerns serious and violent crimes. Thus, as lead investigators, their actions are crucial to maintaining the sanctity and integrity of the crime scene, cordoning off the crime scene, proper collection of evidence, and so forth as this will ultimately determine the success or failure of a case as it moves through the CJS. This process very often comes under severe scrutiny and criticism of the courts and society when there have been gross lapses in this initial stage of the investigation, as we have seen in cases such as Madeline McCann (2007), JonBenèt Ramsey (1996), Sushant Singh Rajput (2020), Trayvon Martin (2012), Danial Morgan (1987) and numerous others.
In my observational experience and case study investigations, I have found that some crime scene investigators often lack a multi-disciplinary crime-solving mindset and function with tunnel vision that is, they only operate from within their own discipline or area of expertise, that is one-dimensionally focused. These experts lack the ability to synthesize their academic knowledge of Criminology, Forensic Science, and Psychology, all of which are the foundations of becoming Criminologists, Forensic Experts, Forensic Psychologists, or Behavioral Analyst / Profilers when conducting criminal investigations. Working on a crime scene requires a multi-dimensional mindset, that is, to apply academic knowledge of the afore mentioned fields and experience to an active crime scene. This ability I call, a “Criminologist Mindset”. This is an expert who possesses the ability to apply various fields of knowledge as mentioned above to a crime scene by create mental associations (pictures) of the crime, the crime scene and the possible suspect/s. Creating a film reel in the mind as you walk through a crime scene documenting everything by using the greatest tool that is unique to each crime scene investigator which is their mind and its ability to put the crime scene puzzle together as they combine their criminological, forensic, law of evidence and psychology backgrounds thus, setting the stage for an imminent arrest and conviction of the perpetrator/s.
All law enforcement officers may not be equipped with the same level of knowledge as these experts, but they can be trained to see through the eyes of a Criminologist Mindset however, there may be some officers who may be naturally gifted with this ability and or academically qualified. Although Forensic Science has many new technologies to detect evidential matter the investigative mind cannot be underestimated to solve crimes especially when an area or country may not be well equipped with such technology or knowledgeable experts. Good old “police work” can also be undertaken by Criminologists and Forensic Experts when resources are unavailable thus, the Criminologist Mindset is a valuable crime solving tool. Back to basics inculcates the ability to think outside of the box per se.
Having a Criminological Mindset means being able to navigate a crime scene whilst forming mental associations through synthesizing all academic knowledge and experience, utilizing all five innate senses, methodical thinking, assimilation of observational information at the crime scene, making logical deductions and exclusions when collecting and preserving evidence as per standard operating procedures (SOP), resulting in a successful and legally solid investigation, accurately identifying and apprehension of the suspect/s, and prosecution. As a Criminologist or Forensic Expert, it is essential to have these skill sets or Criminologist Mindset. Academic knowledge by itself therefore has limited value if it cannot be translated into a technique / tool to solve crime.
The Criminologist Mindset is a mental operational system (MOS) that reads a crime scene systematically and enhances the investigative process by negating errors and omissions as well as decreases the possibility of tainted evidence during what I call the “contamination phase”. This process will have a ripple effect on the CJS ranging from processing the crime scene, the arrest phase, trial, conviction, and sentencing phase through to the reintegration phase. Criminologists and Forensic Experts should therefore form part of the first responder teams when investigating especially serious and violent crime such as murder, sex crimes, kidnapping & abductions, pornographic crimes, trafficking crimes, serial offender crimes, cash in transit (CIT) crimes, terrorist related crimes and so forth. With this learned technique (Criminologist Mindset) law enforcement will reduce sloppy crime scene investigations, evidence collection, and also leave less room for wrongful arrests, minimize legal technicalities, increase convictions rates, refine the parole system in order to reintegrate genuine parolees, thus, reducing chances of recidivism and ultimately creating safer societies.
The Criminologist Mindset views a crime scene holistically and multidimensionally by incorporating Criminology, Psychology and Forensic Scienc into their thought processes thus eliminating tunnel vision because crime is fluid in nature and has a multitude of elements, reasons and possibilities which need to be explored from a Criminological, Forensic and Psychological standpoint in order to solve the crime. Crime scene investigators can hone their investigative skills by adopting a Criminologist Mindset when working on a crime scene.