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Emerging Technology in Criminal Justice

Investigative and Forensic Sciences

Investigative and forensic sciences—those scientific disciplines, technologies, and methods supporting the investigation of crime and the prosecution of criminals—play a critical role in our Nation’s system of justice. High-profile cases seen in courts in recent years have highlighted the importance of such areas as DNA analysis; fingerprint comparison; trace evidence analysis; physical evidence identification, collection, and preservation; questioned document analysis; and eye-witness interviewing and identification. The Attorney General’s interest in the rightful conviction of criminals as well as the exoneration of innocent parties has prompted a significant investment in improving Office of Justice Programs (OJP) efforts in the area of investigative and forensic sciences. These efforts are managed primarily through the Investigative and Forensic Sciences Division, Office of Science and Technology, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and focus on supporting State and local law enforcement agencies. NIJ works with other OJP Bureaus in administering programs in this area, including the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). NIJ’s work is also coordinated with other DOJ and Federal agencies concerned with forensic science and criminal investigation, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the U.S. Secret Service, as well as the Departments of Defense, Commerce, and Energy. 
 
This section describes areas in which OJP has made and continues to make significant investments toward improving forensic technologies and services and investigative procedures, including support to public crime laboratories (chapter 17), research and development in innovative and enhanced forensic technologies (chapter 18), and development of investigative protocols and recommended procedures for law enforcement practitioners (chapter 19).