North Carolina Law Enforcement Officers' Perceptions Regarding the CSI Effect

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Gerald R. Thomas (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Gwen Hunnicutt

Abstract: The phenomenon called the CSI effect has recently occupied a central place in the media. The media and scholars alike have taken an interest in the effect that forensic television shows are having on the public, particularly its effect on American juries. There have been several anecdotal accounts documenting how the CSI effect has impacted the legal system. There have been far fewer scholarly inquiries into the CSI effect.The evidence from both academic and anecdotal accounts is mixed. While there is some research on the CSI effect and juries, there are no existing studies examining how the CSI effect has influenced the perceptions of law enforcement officers. This is surprising given that police officers are the first to arrive crime scenes and are tasked with the responsibility of solving crime. The aims of this exploratory study were twofold: first, to examine the attitudes and beliefs about the existence of a CSI effect among law enforcement officers in North Carolina, and secondly, to examine professional, institutional, and procedural changes, if any, these same officers have made as a result of any perceived CSI effect. This study utilized a self-administered web survey which was distributed to 455 law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, including Federal, State, County, Local, Campus, and special law enforcement jurisdictions. The survey was administered in such a way that each agency could respond only once. Two hundred sixty four agencies returned the survey, a 58% response rate. The results of the study reveal that law enforcement perceive a CSI effect exist among the public. Those law enforcement officers in North Carolina who were surveyed, reported a concern in the lack of evidence in criminal investigations over the past five years. Respondents also reported that attorneys are addressing the forensic science issues in their trial arguments more often now than in the past five years. The results of this study also revealed that law enforcement officers over the past five years have made changes in the ways they handle criminal investigations. These results reveal support for the existence of a CSI effect, as perceived by law enforcement officers. Open-ended questions allowed respondents to offer more detail of cases where respondents believed a CSI effect changed the outcome of a criminal investigation. Many of the responses to the open ended questions indicated law enforcement were being questioned more frequently than in the past about what kinds of evidence were collected and what types of training the respondents had received. The results of this study constitute the first scholarly based research demonstrating support that law enforcement officers believe in the existence of a CSI effect.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
North Carolina, Law Enforcement Officers, CSI effect, media, scholars, forensic television shows, juries, United States, anecdotal accounts, criminal investigations,
Intellect on television.
Criminal investigation $x Public opinion.
Legal drama $x Attitudes.
Jury $x Attitudes.
Police $z North Carolina $x Attitudes.
CSI: crime scene investigation (Television program) $x Public opinion.
Television crime shows $x Social aspects.

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