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Forensic Security and the Law

As Originally Published in The Handbook of Security

By: Daniel B. Kennedy, Ph.D., C.P.P., C.C.S.
Forensic Criminology Asociates, Inc.

Tel: (248) 641-0988
Fax: (248) 641-0788
Email Dr. Daniel B. Kennedy
Website: www.forensiccriminology.com

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Introduction to Forensic Security

Historical Overview of Forensic Sciences
In ancient Rome, a forum was a public place where important governmental debates were held. Sometimes it was a town square or even a marketplace. Gradually, the forum also became a sort of public 'courthouse,' where various trials of importance to the citizenry were held. Etymologically, the word forensic may be traced to the Latin forensis, for 'public,' and to forensus, meaning 'of the forum.' In some centers of higher learning, forensic studies came to mean the art or study of argumentative discourse, while in others the legal and judicial aspects of forensics were emphasized. In modern times, the term forensic has been applied to a body of knowledge useful to the courts in the resolution of conflicts within a legal context.

The word 'science' also comes to us from the Latin word scire, meaning 'to know.' Forensic science in its broadest definition, then, is the application of science to law. Essentially, a forensic scientist is one who relies on a systematically collected body of knowledge in order to provide relevant information to courts of law tasked with resolving legal issues. Although one might speak of science in service to the law, certain conflicts are inevitable in that the classic goal of science is the production of truth, while the goal of the law is to achieve justice.1 Forensic scientists must recognize that they are but guests of the court, invited for the court's purposes. It is not unexpected that, from time to time, 'scientific truth' will be subordinated to 'legal truth.' Such is the reality of the adversary system, and one which every forensic scientist must be prepared to accept if he or she is to engage in the modern forum.2

Because of the wide breadth of knowledge potentially useful to the courts, numerous classification schemes have been proposed for the forensic sciences. Some authors have claimed that forensic science is simply a more generic term for criminalistics, the application of natural science to the detection of crime (Gilbert, 1986). Saferstein (2001) argues that, for all intents and purposes, the two terms are taken to be one and the same. Other scholars believe this approach is too narrow and exclusionary. For example, Moenssens, Starrs, Henderson and Inbau (1995) consider scientific evidence in civil and criminal cases to be comprised of evidence based on the biological and life sciences, evidence based on the physical sciences, and behavioral science evidence. Thus, biological and life science evidence would consist of forensic pathology, serology and toxicology, drug analysis, DNA testing, and forensic odontology. Forensic anthropology and osteology (see Bass and Jefferson, 2003) would also be included within this rubric.

Forensic evidence based on the physical sciences would include questioned documents, ballistics, firearms identification and micrography, trace evidence, arson and explosives, spectographic voice recognition, and fingerprint identification.3 In such a scheme, behavioral science evidence would be derived primarily from psychiatry, psychology and, to a limited extent, the detection of deception through polygraphy, hypnosis, narcoanalysis, and voice stress analysis.

In this chapter, however, we shall follow the lead of James and Nordby (2003), who argue that forensic science is much more comprehensive than criminalistics and related laboratory subjects. In addition to the conventional areas of study mentioned above, the field of forensic science 'constantly expands to include many additional areas of expertise' (James and Nordby, 2003: xvi). Thus, these scholars also include analyses of bloodstain pattern interpretation, forensic engineering, forensic cybertechnology, and criminal personality profiling in their recently edited textbook. Other subjects which may be routinely included one day are forensic economics, forensic photography, forensic radiology, and forensic accounting.

While the modern security manager would instantly understand the relevance of forensic accounting to his or her loss prevention responsibilities, certain social sciences are also becoming more forensically relevant to security concerns (Faigman, Kaye, Saks, Sanders, 2002b; Monahan and Walker, 1998). Certainly, there is a developing forensic sociology (Colquitt, 1988; Jenkins and Kroll-Smith, 1996; Moore and Friedman, 1993; Roesch, Golding, Hans and Reppucci, 1991) as well as a forensic criminology (Anderson and Winfree, 1987; Kennedy and Homant, 1996; Thornton and Voigt, 1988; Wolfgang, 1974). As will be seen below, there is also an emerging specialty known as forensic security with which today's loss prevention manager must become quite familiar if he or she is to successfully respond to the growing challenge of premises liability for negligent security litigation facing today's businesses, corporations, and commercial / residential landlords.

Because security litigation can be a rather complex matter, it is best understood from the perspective of the security expert witness so often called up by the courts or by attorneys for either plaintiffs or defendants.4 The consulting or testifying expert must understand completely the event in question as well as the parts played in it by all parties. The expert witness must also be aware of a property's history, all security-related policies and procedures, relevant industry standards, and the legal process as well. It is from this comprehensive perspective, then, that much of the ensuing material will be presented.

. . . Continue to article and footnotes (PDF).


Dr. Daniel Kennedy, is FCA's principal consultant and is Board Certified in Security Management. Dr. Kennedy has had extensive specialized training in various aspects of Criminal Behavior, Policing Operations, Corrections Operations, and Private Sector Security Management. He specializes in crime foreseeability issues, appropriate standards of care in the security industry, and analyses of the behavioral aspects of proximate causation.

See Dr. Kennedy's Profile on Experts.com.

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