We should pay more attention to Radley Balko

June 15, 2011

by Roger Koppl

On June 14th, Radley Balko posted an article on Huffington Post entitled “Private Crime Labs Could Prevent Errors, Analyst Bias: Report.”  He explains some of the problems of forensic science in the US.  He suggests that “rivalrous redundancy” could improve the system and links to my 2007 Reason Foundation Report explaining how rivalrous redundancy works. 

For years, Radley has documented shocking problems in the American criminal justice system from no-knock warrants, to the snitch system, to forensic science.  He contributed to the July 2011 special issue of Reason magazine on “Criminal Injustice.”  The criminal justice system is the great fulcrum point where the power of the state meets the people.  We need to be more conscious of the problems of our criminal justice system and the risks to our liberties created by those problems.  And liberty loving scholars need to think harder about the nature of the problem and what to do about it.

4 Responses to “We should pay more attention to Radley Balko”

  1. Daniel Kuehn Says:

    Of the many things that I find incomprehensible about early 20th century suspicions of competition is the idea that redundancy is somehow a wasteful thing. Redundancy is a feature, not a bug.

  2. Roger Koppl Says:

    Just so, Daniel!

  3. Pevinsghost Says:

    I think it’s hilarious that the same people will claim that if left to the market to provide services, that a monopoly will be created, then say that the Redundancy is wasteful, and never see the waste or monopoly built into government solutions.


  4. Law enforcement is mesmerized by the same “CSI Effect” that seduces juries. In three papers, Shelton, Barack, and Kim showed that jurors with less education demand physical evidence. Whether they are capable of evaluating that evidence is a separate question. Similarly, police agencies are incapable of knowing good results from bad, but always want the outcomes that validate their arrests.

    Balko is right: police labs serve the police and see the accused as their enemy. That is why the accused needs their own lab, just as they need their own lawyer.


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