Cop Science: The Crisis of Forensic Investigations

Cop Science: The Crisis of Forensic Investigations

When you watch CSI, you see forensic investigators always catch their perp. But in the real world, is their science really so good? Since the early 2000s, there has been a crisis within the forensic sciences; scholars, activists, and lawyers have pointed to startling false positives, unsupported methodologies, and absurd claims. In this five-part series of episodes, we explore the relationship between scientific expertise and the criminal justice system. How much faith should we have in these technologies? Do they provide us a more ‘objective’ method for investigating crimes, or do they just amplify racial and institutional biases, giving police officers the answers they already had in mind?

EP53: Survival of the Leftest: Should We Embrace Behavioural Genetics? (3/25/2022) - Can genetics play a role in crafting left social policy? Or should we not touch those ideas ever again–even with a 10 foot pole? Paige Harden’s new book, “The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality” makes a forceful case for an egalitarian politics informed by DNA.  However, geneticist Joseph Graves critiqued the book …

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EP52: The DNA of a Wrongful Imprisonment (ft. Kimani Boden, Stephen Cordner & Amade M’charek) (3/11/2022) - DNA offers us the promise of an objective forensic science. Rather than following our own racially-biased hunches, technology can deliver us the unvarnished truth. Yet, we always interpret technology through our own particular lens, and within a society that produces technology in a particular sort of way.  In this episode, we look at how forensic …

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EP51: This is Your Brain on Trial (ft. Andrew Scull, Tess Neal & Roland Nadler) (2/25/2022) - Imagine reading or watching The Minority Report and thinking of that as a model for the criminal justice system. Well, plenty of forensic types are doing just that. Can you figure out if you are a criminal by scanning your brain? On this episode of Darts and Letters, guest-host Jay Cockburn and our guests explore …

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EP17: Pathological: The Work of Dr. Charles Smith (4/9/2021) - Dr. Charles Smith performed autopsies at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, ON. The cops kept turning to him with new corpses, and he kept claiming that these deaths were the result of foul play. He was thought of as a God in his field–few people were willing to question his work. That is …

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EP16.1: Mesmerizing Convolutions: The Rise of Fingerprint Identification (4/6/2021) - In this bonus episode, Gordon Katic speaks with Simon A. Cole, a professor of Criminology, Law and Society at University of California Irvine. He’s the author of “Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification”. We do a deep dive into the social and political story of fingerprinting, and how it took more than …

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EP16: Derailed: The Crisis of Forensic Expertise (3/30/2021) - When it comes to complex social problems, us sensible well-educated book-learnin’ types turn to the experts; we ‘believe science’ — unlike those snorting, hooting, semi-literate dunces. But over the next two weeks, we have two stories that will make you think twice about putting blind faith in experts. What if they don’t actually know what …

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