Friday, June 12, 2009



The majority of criminology is statistical and theoretical in nature. It deals with groups of offenders and broad crime theory as opposed to applied methods of case examination. Conversely, the majority of criminology and criminal justice students are seeking careers in corrections, law enforcement, and even forensic science - all of which are applied professions.

Therein lies the problem, argues the new textbook Forensic Criminology (Elsevier Science, 2009), coauthored by Brent Turvey, MS; Wayne Petherick, PhD; and Claire Ferguson, MCrim.

They explain that: "despite numerous courses on the subject at colleges and universities all over the world, there is much excitement yet confusion about the specific nature and place of forensic criminology—with no unifying philosophy or guide. Moreover, criminology subjects are often taught by theoretical sociologists without a forensic orientation to large groups of students seeking employment in the areas of forensic science, corrections, law enforcement, and the law. In other words, it is often taught by an abstract group with one philosophy to an applied group that requires another — which can lead to miscommunication, uncertainty, and ignorance. When taught criminology subjects by pure academics and theoreticians (sociologists and criminal justice researchers), students are left without a sense of the practical forensic nature of their work; when taught solely by criminal justice practitioners (law enforcement, lawyers, and forensic technicians), those same students are left without a sense of the relevant theoretical and even scientific underpinnings. The mismatch should be clear, and it is the purpose of this text to bridge this gap in a way that no other has..."

"The disconnect between students and lecturers has been holding criminology back for decades," says Wayne Petherick, PhD, a forensic criminologist and also an Associate Professor of Criminology at Bond University on the Gold Coast, Australia. "Many criminologists have forgotten, or are simply unaware, that their work can and will be used to investigate and assess actual cases. When we don't teach it that way, students don't learn it that way. It creates a false impression that criminology is just theory and data, and may actually devalue outdated degree programs as being less than relevant."

Forensic Criminology is the scientific study of crime and criminals for the purposes of addressing investigative and legal issues. It is a behavioral science, and it is a forensic science. As the authors explain, their new text of the same name provides "a bridge between the broad construct of multidisciplinary criminology and forensic examination of individual cases".

This bridge is necessary to provide students with the essential skills and mindset for future employment in the criminal justice system, explains Brent Turvey, MS, a forensic scientist, criminal profiler, and adjunct professor of justice studies at Oklahoma City University. "Instructors need tools that emphasize the applied nature of criminology from a scientific perspective, but there are very few available. They also need help providing their students with basic forensic awareness - and by that I mean awareness of how their methods and conduct will impact and also be dictated by what happens in court."

The authors explain that being informed on this level will not only help students to get the jobs they want, but also to keep them: "Achieving basic forensic knowledge is not a simple matter, as the mandates of the forensic realm place students at crossed purposes with scientific, public safety, and legal mandates. They must learn to distinguish scientific fact from legal truth; to appreciate how investigative thresholds for evidence are a great deal less than scientific standards, and a great deal different from legal ones; and to understand the role that they seek to uphold in the criminal justice system—be that of factual witness, impartial examiner, or zealous advocate—as well as the importance of each to the others. The varying issues, practices, and standards peculiar to the forensic realm are nothing short of vital to student survival and prosperity once employment has been secured."

"We have an enormous responsibility to our students," states Petherick. "If you are running a criminology or criminal justice program, or teaching in one, it can't just be about getting enrollments up because forensic subjects are popular. We have to let our students know what they are in for with respect to the justice system; and that means we have a responsibility to know it for ourselves."

Turvey agrees, "Students of criminology need to be provided with a healthy blend of scholarship, science and applied knowledge. They need to understand that there are many kinds of forensic science; that there are many different forensic professions out there. Programs like CSI and Law & Order have ramped up interest, but they've also created a lot of confusion. We need to do a better job of untangling that mess."

Forensic Criminology does this and more, providing a run down of the different kinds of forensic criminologists and criminological assessments used in actual casework. It also acts as a introduction to the aspects of the criminal justice system that students must be familiar with to survive. In doing so, students learn not only the many forensic professions that exist, but also their roles and responsibilities.

"It's a textbook for students, a handbook for scientific professionals, and a reference for anyone who needs to know how an education in criminology may be used in forensic casework." says Petherick. "There's nothing else like it available - nothing that brings criminologists, forensic casework, and behavioral science together like this."

Forensic Criminology is currently scheduled to ship on September 1, 2009, and may be pre-ordered through or directly from Elsevier.



Forensic Solutions

Amazon Author's Page

Wayne A. Petherick, PhD

Brent E. Turvey, MS