Mathematical knowledge is an essential skill for most professions, and the field of criminal justice is no exception. For anything from investigating traffic accidents or criminal incidents to analysing crime statistics, police officers use mathematics--and so do criminal investigators, law enforcement administrators and other criminal justice professionals.
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Mathematicians in the United Kingdom have pointed out that math can assist police in investigating traffic accidents. When police officers investigate traffic accidents, they often reconstruct the collision, which requires mathematical knowledge. Police officers must understand measurements of distance and be able to calculate vehicle speeds and distances travelled in order to conduct an accurate investigation of a traffic accident.
Mathematical knowledge provides a powerful tool for criminal investigators, Dr. David Spiegelhalter told the British Science Association. Incidents involving a firearm require investigators to use math for ballistics, determining trajectory and the distance from which a perpetrator fired a weapon. Homicide investigators must understand math to determine a victim's time of death, which requires them to consider such factors as climate conditions and body temperature. Forensic scientists, also known as crime scene investigators, use mathematics, as well as biology and chemistry, when collecting and analysing evidence from crime scenes.
Weights and Measures
Knowing weights and measures is particularly important in criminal cases that involvie illegal drugs. Investigators and prosecutors must know the exact amount of drugs seized from a suspect because punishments often vary with the amount of drugs possessed at the time of a person's arrest. Suspects that possess larger amounts of a controlled substance often face harsher prison terms. The Des Moines Area Community College identifies weights and measures--as well as other mathematics skills--in its skill grid for criminal justice students.
Police chiefs and other criminal justice managers need mathematical and statistical knowledge to understand the range of crime statistics produced by their officers. Government agencies, such as the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, collect a wide range of crime statistics. Statistical knowledge helps administrators determine, for example, police precincts with the highest crime rates, enabling them to beef up police patrols and other crime prevention measures. Math and statistics also help criminal justice managers and researchers evaluate the effectiveness of various law enforcement and crime prevention programs.
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