In the criminal justice system, undercover operations are of great value, although sometimes they can be in some way unpredictable, if not properly organized. When law enforcement goes undercover, they are able to obtain information that could have probably remained secret or undiscovered while using other investigative methods. But like other types of investigations, undercover assignments usually face different ethical concerns. There are instances where the undercover team would have to choose between different criminal cases and determine which case requires full attention and which one needs to be “sacrificed” or put aside in order to solve the other. In addition, the undercover team must play the part in a convincing manner, while attempting to avoid overidentification or repulsion. Furthermore, it is crucial for the team to remain unbiased, neutral, and have a value free perspective, which would allow them to stay focused and objective.
There are different ways of keeping records while conducting an investigation. Some of the most common procedures include keeping field notes and the use of visual criminology. Field notes can be defined as the keeping of a detailed and extensive diary of the events that take place during research on the field. These contemporaneous notes of the conversations or observations can be verbatim or condensed, depending on the circumstances of the research. Visual criminology, on the other hand, makes use of photographs to capture evidence when doing field studies. However, not all visual criminology consists of photographs, as the use of any image to collect information from research participants, or to describe, analyze, or present data, also falls under this category. Some examples of this include maps, drawings, paintings, graphs, charts, and diagrams. In this particular case, both methods can be useful in collecting data while undercover. However, while visual criminology is effective in securing some data, field notes would be a better alternative in describing criminal activity. The reason behind this lies on the fact that field notes can be completed once members of the undercover team are no longer working directly with the suspects, thus reducing the dangers of the investigation being discovered. A good way to achieve this, especially with less experienced agents, is to observe and listen more, and to avoid asking too many questions. The officer should also remember that not all scenarios require questioning, and that it is important to know when and how to question suspects and their associates. This usually allows for the suspects to speak freely and without any concerns about the subject being investigated, which generally leads to more information being shared, sometimes without the need for questions to be asked by the undercover officer.
Participant observation is a type of research method that involves the researcher either joining a group or observing its members during their daily lives or activities. This is an approach that leads to less prejudgments, is less disturbing to the group being studied, and can be more flexible and natural with regard to its implementation. Nonetheless, due to the nature of this method, one of its main disadvantages rests on the fact that can be time consuming. Some participant observation studies can go on for months or even years. In many occasions, the observer is not in a position to control the actions of the individuals being observed, and generally has to wait for behaviors or activities to take place. In addition, there is always the issue of the observer having to gain trust and gaining entry into and acceptance by the group in question. The methods to achieve this sometimes result in ethical dilemmas.
There are times when participant observation cannot be achieved, and there is a need for the researching team to conduct another method of research. One way of studying groups in a manner that they remain unaware of being studied is unobtrusive measures. These are nonreactive methods where data is gathered, which eliminates the subject’s reactiveness to the study. There are five major types of unobtrusive measures, which include physical trace analysis; simulation; disguised observation; simple observation; and archival, existing data. For this case, the best unobtrusive measurement to be used is the analysis of physical trace. This is the study of deposits, accretion of matter, and other indirect substances that have been produced by previous human interaction. In the case of the GNB bank and its staff, the researching team will focus on the analysis of available data, which shall include not only the analysis of the bank’s records and statistical data, but also regular procedures such as sales, deposits, trading trends, and changes in investments. The main advantage of using this type of unobtrusive measure is the nonreactivity of gathering data. By reducing or eliminating the subject’s reactivity or awareness about the study, the researcher assumes and ensures that the behavior and attitude of the group being studied is more natural. This avoids overreliance on attitudinal data, or the verbal description made by the individuals being studied, about their behavior. When using unobtrusive measurements, the researcher also ensures that the collection of physical evidence is inconspicuous, which in turns leads to anonymity and safety for the researching team. However, this type of collection may carry some ethical concerns, such as the issue of privacy invasion. This is particularly true as we are to consider that the researcher has not requested permission from the group being studied in order for them to be observed. When the subjects being studied are found in their natural environment, there is the possibility that their actions or behaviors may lead to private or intimate incidents that can be both embarrassing or dangerous, depending on who has access to the information in question. Furthermore, the results of these types of studies can be atypical, and sometimes cannot be generalized with regard to larger groups or populations.
In research, two of the most valuable and crucial standards of inquiry are reliability and validity. Reliability is demonstrated when replication of findings is stable and consistent. Stability is determined by the answers provided by the respondent, considering whether there have been changes to the rival causal factors, remain the same during a subsequent testing. The determination of validity occurs when the set of items used to measure a behavior or incident are highly related and are measuring the same concept. In the presented scenario, the multiple forms reliability method should be effective. This method involves the administration of alternate forms of the same instrument to the same group. The multiple forms method is used to avoid one of the disadvantages of test-retest, which is the awareness of the subjects about being retested. Since multiple forms can be described as a disguised version of the test-retest method, the subjects will not be affected by the results of the pretest.
To avoid error during research, it is important for validity to be achieved. This is done by confirming the accuracy of the measurements and determining whether the instrument in fact measured that which it was supposed to measure. There are different ways of determining the validity of measuring instruments. To to make this determination different types of validity can be used, including face validity, content validity, construct validity, pragmatic validity, and convergent-discriminant validity. In this case, the best type of validity used to confirm accuracy is convergent-discriminant validation. In this procedure, different measures of the same concept should lead to the same results (this is the convergence), while the same measure of different concepts would lead to different results (also known as discrimination).
White-collar crime is one of the most discussed topics in the criminal justice system. An early and common definition of white-collar crime states that it is a crime which is committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of the individual’s occupation. Some authors believe that white-crime should be classified as corporate and occupational crimes which are committed by corporate employees for the benefit of the company (the former) or for personal gain (the latter). These are good definitions when considering the sociological aspect of crime, but do not correspond to the reality in criminal law. This is particularly true when considering that criminal justice focuses on the nature of the offense, not of the offender. Therefore, a better definition of white-collar crime, in the criminal justice context, would those nonviolent criminal activities that would primarily use deception, fraud, misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment, for the purpose of obtaining property, money or other advantage, or to conceal or cover up other criminal wrongdoing.
To measure white-collar crime, we must review the different levels of measurement. Variables can be measured on four different levels: nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. Nominal level variables represent the simplest form of measurement. Measurement at this level places responses in mutually exclusive categories and has no mathematical meaning. The measurement in ordinal level variables places objects into ranks, while containing all the properties of the nominal variables. Variables in the interval level contain all the elements of the other two categories, and in addition have a measurement in which equal intervals or distance between objects on a scale is assumed. Finally, ration level variables not only assume the interval quality of data, but also possess a fixed, meaningful zero point. While-collar crime can be measured using nominal level variables. An example of this would be the testing of whether certain areas of employment determine if the person is more likely to engage in a particular type of crime, in this case, white-collar, versus other type of crime.
In research, the purpose of measurement is to make a connection between concepts and numbers. Scale measurement enables a more exact measurement of phenomena, from nominal level to ordinal or interval. This occurs because scales lend themselves to replication and the longitudinal measurement of miniscule changes which take place during studies or investigations. This in turn forces the researcher to have a more rigorous thinking when involved in the systematic approach to operationalization. However, opponents to scales question whether they serve their purpose, doubting scales measure what they are supposed to measure. They also argue whether an individual’s attitude or behavior can really be measured on a five- or seven-point scale. In addition, they remind others not of the errors in measurement, but of the error of measurement.
One of the best methods in determining the reduction of crime is the use of data analysis. Prior to analyzing this data, it is necessary to collect it by using multiple methodologies. Sources of error must be regularly reviewed and checked, to ensure that the findings are true and valuable to the research, and not the result of measurement error. By analyzing the gathered data, law enforcement staff would determine whether there has been a significant reduction in while-collar crime, within certain period of time. Differences which are dramatic from place to place and from a year to another, show the efficacy of the implement policing strategies. This can be measured by using statistics and measures of central tendency, as they describe the typical, middle, or average score. The most commonly used measures of central tendency are mode, median, and mean. Mode is described as the simplest measure of central tendency, and the most frequently occurring score. Even though mode can be use with any level of data, usually it is more appropriate to use it with the nominal level data. The midpoint or median, is a measure of central tendency that applies to ordinal or ranked data. This is the type of score that divides the distribution in halves (i.e. above or below the median). The average or mean is the most familiar measure of central tendency, and simply involves dividing the total score by the total number of cases. This measure is mostly used for interval or ratio level data. When analyzing this study on white-collar crime, the mode measure would be the most appropriate method of study. It was previously determined that we would measure white-collar crime using nominal level variables. As discussed earlier, while mode can be used with any of the levels of data measurement, it is the most appropriate measure for nominal level variables. In the summary of the study, we should use inferential statistics. The reasoning behind it lies on the fact that inferential statistics enable generalization or inference of sample findings to larger populations or assessment of the probability of certain findings. By using nominal level variables, we have tested the probability of participation or engagement of an individual in a particular crime (white-collar crime) depending on the area of employment the person is employed in. Descriptive statistics, on the other hand, intend to summarize or describe data, or show the relationship between variables.
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