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Cold cases

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Cold Case Investigation Units and Advances in Investigative Techniques

March 2020

Sergeant Jason Moran of the Cook County (IL) Sheriff’s Office discusses the current situation of cold cases in the United States, why it’s important to establish cold case units, how current tools and technology can help solve cold cases, and what National Institute of Justice resources are available to assist in solving cold cases.

Sergeant Moran was a participant on an NIJ Saturday Session panel at IACP 2019.

Creating and Maintaining Sustainable Cold Case Units

As a matter of public safety and to ensure justice for victims, a priority of all law enforcement agencies – federal, state, and local – is to solve all cases, regardless of the amount of time that has passed.  

Notes From the Field

Those working in the criminal justice system should always use research and evidence to inform their policies, practices, and work. However, leaders often need to make decisions based on limited information and under unpredictable or even volatile circumstances. Sometimes there simply isn’t research available yet to help inform decisions on emerging issues.

Cold Case Investigations

Experience has shown that cold case programs can solve a substantial number of violent crime cold cases, including homicides and sexual assaults. Advances in DNA technologies have substantially increased the successful DNA analysis of aged, degraded, limited, or otherwise compromised biological evidence. As a result, crime scene samples once thought to be unsuitable for testing may now yield DNA profiles. Additionally, samples that previously generated inconclusive DNA results may now be successfully analyzed.

Don't Jump the Shark: Understanding Deterrence and Legitimacy in the Architecture of Law Enforcement

November 2010

Deterrence theory dominates the American understanding of how to regulate criminal behavior but social psychologists' research shows that people comply for reasons that have nothing to do with fear of punishment; they have to do with values, fair procedures and how people connect with one another. Professor Meares discussed the relevance of social psychologists' emerging theory to legal theory and practice and how deterrence and emerging social psychology theories intertwine.

"Sentinel Event" Review in the Criminal Justice System

January 2014

Listen to James Doyle discuss the basics of a "sentinel event" review in the criminal justice system. This learning-from-error approach borrows from principles that medicine, aviation and other high-risk enterprises have successfully used. Former NIJ Fellow Doyle offers the basics to understand this innovative idea that takes a system-wide perspective of error, bringing all stakeholders together in a non-blaming, forward-looking way after a bad outcome, such as a wrongful conviction, occurs.

Familial DNA Searching: Issues and Answers

June 2011

Familial DNA searching is the practice of creating new investigative leads in cases where DNA evidence found at the scene of a crime strongly resembles that of an existing DNA profile but is not an exact match. Panelists will explain how the technology works, provide examples of successful convictions obtained through familial searches, and discuss the various misconceptions and concerns regarding this practice.