Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Edmond Locard: Forensic Rock Star

by: Joseph L. Giacalone


If you are a fan of the CSI TV series or similar criminal investigation shows, then why not learn about the real forensic rock stars. These men and women are the real reason why you are watching those shows in the first place. In today's post, a first in a series of "Forensic Rock Stars," I am going to talk about Edmond Locard and his work in the field of criminalistics - many of which is still being used today! 

Edmond Locard (1877-1966) was a French Criminalist and "student" of Alphonse Bertillon and his theory on Anthropometry, or body measurements. Alphonse Bertillon is seen as the "Father of Criminal Identification," however, many of his ideas were later replaced by new technology. Ironically, it was Locard's improvements in dactylography - the study of fingerprints - which led to their adoption over his mentor's "body measurements" theory as a means to identify criminals.

Locard's study of law and medicine (Forensic Science) led him to many discoveries in the area of criminalistics. One of his most important discoveries was his theory of transfer between objects, which is better known as Locard's Exchange Principle. It has become the basis of transfer between objects and is an important aspect of crime scene investigation. When two objects come together, each one takes something or leaves something behind. For example, have you ever visited a friend that had a cat or dog and you found yourself pulling hairs off your black pants or off of the car seat? Those hair fibers, if collected properly, would place you at the scene. That is Locard's Exchange Principle at work. 

In a violent encounter the likelihood of finding transfer evidence is even more so. Transferred evidence, also known as associative evidence, is not always visible and is not always a solid. Trace evidence, DNA, semen, blood and other body fluids can serve as transfer evidence. This is why proper controls at crime scenes are extremely important in order to avoid contamination. Unfortunately, these lessons are not always adhered to as in the case of Amanda Knox.The most important control is that of the "gatekeeper." The "gatekeeper" is a uniformed officer that stands outside of the crime scene an records who enters and leaves the scene. However, the most important role is prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the crime scene.

Edmond Locard is also credited with the following advances in forensics and criminal investigation:
  • Established the first crime lab in Lyon, France
  • Founded the International Academy of Criminalistics in Switzerland  

Related Articles:

Dr. Sir Alec Jeffreys: Forensic Rock Star #2
6 Mistakes to Avoid at a Crime Scene

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