The perils of false memories in political investigations

June 2017

Politicians and officials under investigations like the one probing the Trump campaign's Russia ties often say they cannot recall certain events. Investigators and prosecutors don't look kindly on such statements.

But high-profile public figures do sometimes develop incorrect memories, such as Brian Williams' on-air exaggerations, and Hillary Clinton's story of coming under sniper fire in Bosnia.

"Educated, successful people in society can have pretty huge false memories," Elizabeth Loftus, distinguished professor of psychology and social behavior, told Politico.

PhD student researches how to alter public perceptions of police

June 2017

Simple changes in police officers’ attire and equipment can have profound effects on whether others perceive them to be aggressive, approachable, friendly, respectful, and accountable. Rylan Simpson, a doctoral student in criminology, law and society, recently demonstrated such changes in perception during a panel discussion at the University of Redlands, an event that was featured in the San Bernardino Sun.

Graduating PhD student studies the danger of using rap music in criminal trials

Negative perceptions of rap music and rappers threaten to sway juries in criminal trials.

In cases across the U.S., criminal investigators have been treating rap lyrics as confession evidence rather than as art or entertainment. The aspiring rappers’ lyrics – found on scraps of paper, in online rap videos, on Facebook posts and in other places – become courtroom evidence.

But a major concern is that negative stereotypes about rap music influence how jurors evaluate the lyrics and the people who write them. Jurors are allowed to examine lyrics for intent to commit a crime, but pervasive associations of rap with criminality mean they might consciously or unconsciously also use the lyrics to determine whether a defendant is the type of person who would commit a crime – even though the lyrics aren’t allowed to be used in that way.

Adam Dunbar, who is graduating with a PhD in Criminology, Law and Society, has studied the intricacies of how people perceive rap music – and how those perceptions result in rap music being a potentially discriminatory form of evidence in criminal trials. People bring a certain baggage, which is often racial, to their understanding of rap lyrics and rappers.

Data mining leading to new type of immigration enforcement

June 2017

Police departments and federal agencies today have access to huge databases -- financial records, phone calls, vehicle records and criminal justice files -- that didn't exist two decades ago. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are now mining those vast quantities of data to identify and locate undocumented immigrants to arrest. The data are aiding a rise in immigration raids under President Trump's administration.

"The raids are different than before, they’re very targeted," Ana Muniz, an assistant professor of Criminology, Law & Society, told The Intercept. "Any sort of motivated agent has a way to access information from one system to another. The arrests we’re seeing in Los Angeles are of ICE agents sent out to detain or one two people with specific standing removal orders, that requires a detailed level of intelligence, whereas during the 1990s and 2000s, the raids were more location-based."