State needs to accept value of forensic entomology
Two weeks ago we applauded the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) for its increasing use of forensic science in criminal investigations.
We said that it was obvious that heavy investment has been made in the equipment and technologies to help improve police work — laying the groundwork for swifter arrests along with more efficient and successful prosecutions.
That much was on display at the four-day inaugural police expo held at the National Arena in St Andrew in May this year.
The JCF, we maintain, should be commended for utilising modern technology in its investigations, a move that no doubt enhances the work of the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine which is playing a vital role in improving national security.
We believe that this thrust will improve with the application of every available tool.
As such, we are puzzled by a comment from PhD candidate at The University of West Indies (UWI), Ms Rochelle Daley, in relation to the use of forensic entomology in the investigation of crimes.
Forensic entomology involves identification of insects found within or in association with human remains to determine the time of death as part of criminal or related investigations.
Ms Daley told this newspaper that she is yearning to see the use of that technology by law enforcers locally and across the Caribbean.
According to Ms Daley, it is a long-term goal among the members of her research group to see forensic entomology implemented as a practical field, region-wide.
However, she said, researchers, the judiciary, law enforcement, and governments, must first acknowledge the value of the science and ensure that its application is properly funded.
We must say that we experienced a bit of déjà vu, because five years ago we had reported similar expressions of hope by another forensic entomology PhD candidate at The UWI, Ms Latoya Foote.
At the time, Ms Foote said she was surprised at the casual manner in which evidence that could have helped determine time of death was being raised during the enquiry into the security forces’ May 2010 operation in Tivoli Gardens. More than 60 people were found dead after the operation.
“Many times they said they found maggots on the bodies and they were just mentioning it, and to me, this is evidence,” Ms Foote said.
“In many of the cases they said that they didn’t know whether the individuals were killed before the operation or during the operation. But based on the maggot activity that they found… they had the evidence but they did not know how to use it,” she said.
That story, we believe, pointed out to the Government the value of forensic entomology to criminal investigations. It is not new.
Historians tell us that the first recorded incident of insects being used in such a probe was in 13th-century China.
Experts say the science is fairly new to Jamaica. However, given our alarmingly high level of crime, particularly murder, we should act to give it more focus and resources while, at the same time, establishing the legal standards that will allow evidence gathered in that fashion to be accepted in court.