Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

The Impact of Police Culture on Organisational Change: The Case of Police Use of DNA

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

The Impact of Police Culture on Organisational Change: The Case of Police Use of DNA

Article excerpt

Introduction

The research aimed to establish if police culture prevented the New Zealand Police from making the best use of DNA technology to investigate crime. The emphasis has been placed on police culture as the theoretical construct adopted for the research is Chan's adaptation of the concepts of field and habitus as applied to policing. That is the environment, arena or 'field' of struggles within which the police operate and the culture or shared individual 'habitus' that may enable or disable that environment. Although police culture is a focus of this research; legitimacy, change management, police technology and police hierarchy are also reviewed. This research focuses on the use of DNA technology to investigate crime by reviewing DNA files and interviewing police staff who use DNA as part of their work. This is to compare the perception or views of staff as to the benefits of DNA technology to investigate crime and the reality of what those interviewed actually do with DNA when investigating crime.

DNA is the chemical code specifying a person's genetic makeup, appearance and lineage and is unique to all individuals except identical twins (Kirby, 1992). In 1984, Jeffreys found that portions of DNA contain regions that are made up of an unusual sequence of 10 to 15 DNA bases (called a core sequence), repeated several times. Jeffreys also discovered that these gene sequences in the hypervariable regions were different in every individual except for identical twins (GeneTalk, 2004). This uniqueness provides necessary differentiation for the identification of a DNA fingerprint for all people. Jeffreys' method of identifying offenders was first used successfully in 1986 in the case of a serial murderer/rapist in Enderby and Narborough in England (Wambaugh, 1989). With this understanding of the potential for the use of DNA, the door had been opened for its use as a forensic tool. With police forces' penchant for adopting new technologies and championing them in public fora as a means of promoting legitimacy, it would be only a matter of time before DNA was taken up as a tool for law enforcement; as a new and novel way to secure the arrest of offenders.

Implications for Law Enforcement Agencies

The rise of DNA technology has huge implications for law enforcement agencies throughout the world. A growing number of countries have introduced the use of DNA technology into their criminal justice systems and this growth has been rapid and far reaching (Williams & Johnson, 2008). The New Zealand Police have embraced this technology through investment in the National DNA Databank and continue to invest in DNA sampling. In relation to the arrest of offenders and reduction of crime, there is a need to establish what actually is accomplished by having a national DNA databank. This is important because a key reason the public support the police is that they view them as legitimate (Hinds & Murphy, 2007). This public perception of legitimacy enables the police to do their job and while this perception is not necessarily the reality, this is not important as long as it is real to the public. According to Samkin, Allen and Wallace (2010) it is the extent of stakeholder support for an organisation that determines its legitimacy. Therefore, investment in this new technology is likely to be acceptable to the public only as long as DNA profiling is perceived as an effective investigative tool and does not violate any human-rights issues in the taking and retaining of DNA profiles.

In 1992 the New Zealand government agreed to enact legislation governing the taking of blood samples for DNA purposes. Early in 1993 the police raised a new proposal involving additional powers to take blood samples from convicted offenders for the purpose of maintaining a DNA databank. On 12th August 1996 the Criminal Investigations (Blood Samples) Act 1995 was enacted, enabling the national DNA databank to be established. In 1996 New Zealand became the second country in the world to create a national DNA databank. …

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