Forensic testing in criminal cases has become the stuff of legend, in large part, because of television crime dramas that portray these tests as irrefutable proof of guilt or innocence. But in real life, forensic testing is increasingly becoming a source of controversy.
Racial profiling continues to be a significant problem here in Wisconsin and around the country. Civil rights advocates often argue that police spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy patrolling neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans and other minorities. Racial profiling is also a major issue during traffic stops.
A couple weeks ago, we wrote about a new approach to combating drug use that focuses on harm reduction rather than arrests, convictions and incarcerations. A pilot program has so far been successful in one major city in the Northwest (based on reduced recidivism rates), and there's reason to believe that a similar program could work here in Wisconsin.
Forensic science has become the nearly unquestioned gold standard in criminal cases. This is, in part, due to dozens of television crime dramas showing tests which are supposedly foolproof. It is also because many of these tests were developed and endorsed by agencies like the FBI.