Dundee University project to identify law enforcement language barriers

Dundee University project to identify law enforcement language barriers

Dr Megan O'Neill

A new University of Dundee study could improve transparency and remove organisational bias from an increasingly important aspect of police and forensic scientific work.

The CLARUS project has brought together organisations from across Europe to evaluate and improve how law enforcement and forensic scientists examine and communicate about digital evidence, without compromising impartiality.

As digital analysis becomes increasingly important in criminal investigations, the study will evaluate how traditional methods of communication, including organisational cultures and even language, may be outdated for conducting digital forensic work. It will determine whether a new lexicon is required to ensure that digital evidence is gathered and shared without prejudice to those under investigation.

Dr Megan O’Neill, from the University’s School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, said that such studies are crucial to ensuring that modern policing methods are fit for purpose.

“Society is becoming increasingly digitised and, consequently, so are criminal activities,” she said.

“To protect us effectively, law enforcement agencies must communicate effectively both internally and externally. CLARUS is a multi-disciplinary study that will allow us to evaluate current policing and forensic science examination procedures and understand if current communication methods are effective at ensuring fair but rigorous forms of investigation.

“Digital crime knows no geographical borders and covers many tranches of police work. But given the need for rapid growth of this field, no standardised terminology has been developed. This has resulted in different sectors developing their own methods of working, which often do not allow integrated working when several agencies, often across multiple nations, are involved.

“By challenging current methods of communication, occupational cultures and the accepted ways of working, the CLARUS project will hopefully be able to enhance transparency and trust between the public and law enforcement agencies.”

In total, 12 partners are involved in the project from countries including Greece, Norway, Finland, the Czech Republic and Portugal. The three-year project is supported with funding from the European Union’s Horizon programme.

Professor Niamh Nic Daéid, director of the LRCFS, said: “The importance and potential impact of this work cannot be underestimated.

“We already know from work we have carried out at the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science how critical it is to have clear communication between law enforcement, forensic scientists, legal teams and the public so that evidence can be evaluated within the context of a case and decisions clearly made. This multi-disciplinary project will be a critical step in making that communication, engagement and understanding happen in an impactful way.”

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