forensic practices

My research into the practices of using forensic science in contemporary policing has mainly focused on one actor, the Crime Scene Examiner (CSE).  The CSE is often overlooked in existing sociological accounts of the police use of science. Seen as neither scientists nor investigative officers, CSEs occupy a contested, liminal space.  My work aims to unpick and explore what it means to be a CSE in the contemporary British police force and examine the complex, technical, social and investigative work they complete in the course of the investigation of crime.  Through my work, I aim to contribute to discussions taking place within practitioner literature as well as to theoretical debates within the social sciences.

My PhD research, completed at the University of Exeter under the supervision of Professor Christine Hauskeller and Dr Dana Wilson-Kovacs, examined ethnographically the training and everyday practices of CSEs in England and Wales. Situated at the intersection of sociology, science and technology studies and police studies, my PhD research asked (1) what are the roles, practices and expertise of the CSE, and (2) how is the CSE’s expertise developed in training and enacted in everyday work. In my thesis I explore some of the visible and invisible components of CSE work, drawing into stark relief the complex relationships, expertise and knowledge involved in effective crime scene examination. I unpack the different ways “objectivity” is achieved in CSE work, and the early processes of producing knowledge about crime, that take place at the crime scene but are often overlooked in other accounts. (You can find my PhD thesis here).

I am currently preparing more papers from this PhD research. I’m also looking to expand this research to reflect recent changes in CSE training and practice as well as broader shifts in the police use of forensic science.

I am also an affiliate of the ESRC-funded project (ES/R00742X/1), Understanding the Use of Digital Forensics in Policing in England and Wales: An Ethnographic Analysis of Current Practices and Professional Dynamics, lead by Dr Dana Wilson-Kovacs at the University of Exeter.

publications in this area:

For those with university access, the publisher’s link is provided below.  This is followed by an open-access link to the most up-to-date version I can provide without breaching the publisher’s copyright.

Wilson-Kovacs, D. and Wyatt, D. (2023) ‘The long journey of resistance toward acceptance: Understanding digital forensic accreditation in England and Wales from a social science perspective, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Forensic Science.
Open access: available here.

Wyatt, D. and Wilson-Kovacs, D. (2019) ‘Understanding crime scene examination through an ethnographic lens’, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Forensic Science.
Please contact me here for a copy of this paper.

Wyatt, D. (2014) ‘Practising Crime Scene Investigation: Trace and contamination in routine work’ Policing and Society 24(4) 443-458.
Open access version (final draft post-refereeing) can be found here.

Wilson-Kovacs, D., Wyatt, D. and Hauskeller, C. (2012) ‘“A Faustian bargain?” Public voices on forensic DNA technologies and the National DNA Database’, New Genetics and Society 31(3) 285-298.
Open access version (final draft post-refereeing) can be found here.

Wyatt, D. (2012) Review of Tracing technologies: Prisoners’ views in the era of CSI by Helena Machado and Barbara Prainsack Genomics, Society & Policy 8(1) 61-63.
Open access – Available here.

Wyatt, D. (2010) Joint review of Genetic Policing: The Use of DNA in Criminal Investigations by R. Williams & P. Johnson and Genetic Suspects: Global Governance of Forensic DNA Profiling and Databasing by R. Hindmarsh & B. Prainsack (eds.) Genomics, Society & Policy 6(1) 40-44.
Open access – Available here.