'Tracking down offenders'

Crime scene evidence

The police are there to help you – but this is not always the way people see the officers of the law in African countries. Often police officers are poorly trained and lack the most basic equipment, including laboratory facilities. Since 2009, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been working on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office to reform national police structures in 13 countries.

One example is Côte d’Ivoire. Every avid follower of ‘whodunits’ knows that if the forensic experts are not there to record the evidence at a crime scene it is very difficult to apprehend the offender. In Côte d’Ivoire, as in many other African states, investigators have hitherto relied exclusively on witness statements – many of which did not stand up in court. Forensic science has played no part, as the police force had neither the laboratories nor the experts it would need. That has now changed. Thanks to basic and advanced training in forensic science and 100 new cases of forensic equipment, 300 police officers are now able to apply modern forensic methods. Fingerprints of suspects are compared with the nationwide criminal database and more and more charges are being brought in court with the help of crime site evidence.

The police force in Côte d’Ivoire is now planning to make the forensic laboratory, built with GIZ support in the city of Abidjan, a regional centre serving the whole of West Africa. Mobile teams from the centre could be dispatched to the scenes of violent crimes throughout the region, and forensic officers from neighbouring countries could undergo further training in Abidjan.

The text was released first in the GIZ Integrated Company Report 2015 (published in July 2016) and last updated in December 2016.