On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Does law enforcement resist science?

Share story

St. Paul Police Department
The St. Paul crime lab is housed at the St. Paul Police Department in St. Paul, Minn. Wednesday, July 25, 2012.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

The suspension of drug testing at the St. Paul crime lab in July amid allegations of shoddy science is forcing a debate in Minnesota about the science that's used in police work and investigations. 

  Specifically, researchers like criminal justice scholar David Harris from the University of Pittsburgh Law School have long questioned whether law enforcement, in general, resists science that might help them do their jobs more effectively. Harris will discuss this Thursday at the University of Minnesota Law School.

  Ramsey County Attorney John Choi will also be on that panel. Choi was thrust into the St. Paul crime lab issue because it's his office that has to decide how to proceed with cases where mistakes are discovered.

  Harris' perspective is that we all think police use science flawlessly because of shows like CSI. But Harris notes there's a lot of research about what's wrong with some of the ways police use - or don't use - better science. There are even problems with some of the basic elements of solving crime like finger-printing, interrogating and eyewitnesses.

BLOG: Do we do police lineups correctly?