Tori Schofield

Tori Schofield

University of New Hampshire

Psychology/Justice Studies

2021

Mentor: Dr. Amy Michael, Department of Anthropology

New Hampshire Law Enforcement Response to Recovery of Skeletal Remains: A Survey Study

Law enforcement officers are trained in a variety of skills, including public safety, law, and the justice system. However, they are often untrained when it comes to forensically significant cases that include bone, so they often recruit professionals like forensic anthropologists who specialize in skeletonized remains. Forensic cases involving skeletonized remains are difficult to resolve for personnel who are untrained in osteological analysis due to consideration of the lack of visual identification and the passage of time since the death event. Recruiting forensic anthropologists to work on cases involving bone (or suspected bone) will yield better results for case resolution in modern (forensic), historic, and archaeological cases.

The intention of this research is for law enforcement to recognize the following: 1) cases involving bone are solvable through consultation with forensic anthropologists; 2) when expert consultation is needed; and 3) that forensic anthropologists (and trained osteology students) exist in New Hampshire. If remains are determined to be of human origin, forensic anthropologists can (and should) consult with law enforcement in cases involving bone, and aid them in the identification process. Since New Hampshire is considered a rural state, they have smaller jurisdictions that may not be aware of forensic anthropology expertise and how it can be applied to difficult cases they may recover. To better understand the protocols that New Hampshire law enforcement take when encountering cases involving skeletonized remains, it is necessary to determine the steps they take in forensically significant cases. A comprehensive survey will be sent out to establish the methods used in skeletal identification. Along with the survey, an informational guide will be shown at the end of the survey. This document offers guidance about the work of forensic anthropologists and the steps that could be taken when encountering bone.  By understanding the protocols used at law enforcement agencies, it can create a working relationship with law enforcement and anthropologists who can help with identifying and assisting in closing cases.

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