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Book Review: Ethical Forensics

Ethics and the Practice of Forensic Science, Second Edition. By Robin T. Bowen. ​Published by CRC Press;; 254 pages; $79.95.

Robin T. Bowen's book, Ethics and the Practice of Forensic Science, Second Edition, deals with the decisions forensic scientists and investigators make and the integrity involved in those decisions. In the preface, she writes, "Personal character may influence ethical decisions, so to fully explore the subject of ethics, people should possess open-mindedness and a willingness to discuss their points of view, as well as to acknowledge points that differ from their own."

As a society, we tend to think that forensic scientists, investigators, and specialists are ethical by nature; however, this is not always the case. Forensic science is a profession of experts whose work answers questions for the law through reports and testimony that must work within the legal system. If the science cannot be trusted, the judicial system suffers.

The book discusses ethical issues that forensic scientists face and provides insight into decisions that are made at the crime scene, in the forensic lab, and within the criminal justice system. Much unethical behavior in criminal justice falls into three categories: deception, discrimination, and abuse of power. For example, investigators may misrepresent themselves during an investigation to obtain information or may delve into pretexting—the social engineering technique in which a false situation is developed to elicit confidential information from an unsuspecting party.

This edition incorporates issues concerning accreditation requirements, enhanced ethical codes, and examiner certification, among others. Research reports and information add to the discussion of policies and procedures. Forensic investigations and building strong neighborhoods can have a significant effect on a community. Some readers may disagree with this theory, but the author supports it with research.

Bowen presents her ideas and research effectively throughout the book. She discusses legal concepts, laws, and ethical policies without confusing the reader. Law students and those in the field of forensic science will benefit most from the book.

Reviewer: Kevin Cassidy lectures at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He is a member of ASIS.