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  1. #1
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    Mathematics in Law Enforcement

    Hi.

    I'm wondering if, where and how mathematics are used in law enforcement.

    Is there a need for mathematicians in specific agencies or divisions, or is it about as useful as a degree in philosphy?

    I'll be completing my B.S. in Math (computer science minor) this year and I'm wondering where this specific degree might be useful. "NUMB3RS" comes to mind, but that's probably pretty unrealistic -- since I don't have a brother working for the FBI who could give me a job. ;)

    I think I'd really enjoy patrol the most but I'm thinking long term I might want to do something different.

    I'm also trying to figure out if I should go for a Master's or start applying to law enforcement agencies. I like to learn and I kind of don't feel ready to give it all up. Did some of you go to night school after you were hired? Is that doable?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Switchback's Avatar
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    Your best bet is studying something that you enjoy, regardless of whether it will be directly useful to LE. Your best bet is to do well in school and that is far more likely if you enjoy what you are studying.

    It rarely matters what your degree is in, as long as you have a degree. Trust me, my degree is in molecular biology. You are a fool if you think I ever directly apply anything from my degree in my job. With that said, I think few would say that I am behind the powercurve. However, the methodology and problem-solving skills are useful in all aspects of life, generally and LE, specifically.

    Now, to answer your question, I imagine (though, I am not qualified to speak to it), I imagine math would be fairly important in doing accident reconstructions. Some crime scene analysis would make great use of good math skills (trajectories of projectiles, blood splatter analysis, etc.).

    I can tell you, first hand, that math can be useful in ranging out targets of unknown distance when you are a sniper.

    While there may be uses for strong math skills throughout LE, it will not be much more than freshman geometry. If you are looking for anything of particular challenging calculations, LE may not be your field.
    We bring evil things to evil people, kicking in a door near you!

    ."In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But,
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  3. #3
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    I'm always trying to figure out the cosine of robberies and calculate the parabolas of b1tch slaps in domestic violence.

    Just kidding. A degree in any field is helpful, because it shows your commitment to education and to seeing an endeavor through to completion. Those speak more to who you are as a person than whether your degree is in math or criminal justice or sub-saharan goat herding.

    And dont listen to Switch and all his sniper b.s. They have little notebooks with calculations, and little dials and buttons and those watches from the early 1980's that are calculators but are all big like PC's. After all that he just does some addition in his head, then holds a wet finger in the air.

  4. #4
    TXTing is offline Banned TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute
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    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Switchback View Post
    Your best bet is studying something that you enjoy, regardless of whether it will be directly useful to LE. Your best bet is to do well in school and that is far more likely if you enjoy what you are studying.
    Well, after high school I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I simply went with aptitude rather than interest. I'm not all that passionate about math but it has always come very easy to me. And computer science seemed like a useful application.

    While there may be uses for strong math skills throughout LE, it will not be much more than freshman geometry. If you are looking for anything of particular challenging calculations, LE may not be your field.
    High school freshman or college freshman geometry? :eek:


    So it doesn't matter what your degree is in. Is there even any reason why anybody would get a Master's degree? Are my chances of being hired greater if I have a Master's as opposed to a Bachelor's? Or does it really not matter?

  5. #5
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    Two words:

    Accident Reconstruction.

    Some of the most complicated applied physics I have ever seen goes into that.

    -Citicop.
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  6. #6
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    Many, many Moons ago I applied for a Public Safety Officer position with the DFW Airport DPS. In that job you were then trained as a LEO, Firefighter and Paramedic. (I understand they are separate now)

    I was doing well in the oral board until they gave me math to do on the portable chalkboard they had in the interview room. It involved fractions and other stuff I was just not prepared for.

    Had I known about the math I could have prepared.......They did allow me to come back within 6 months and start from there, but by then my interest had faded.........

    I guess you never know when math will be needed.

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  7. #7
    Switchback's Avatar
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    Screw math in LE. You'll find that your kids' math homework becomes rather challenging at a surprising age... regardless of how well you USED TO KNOW IT. :D
    We bring evil things to evil people, kicking in a door near you!

    ."In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But,
    in practice, there is."

    - Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

    "The difference between 'involvement' and 'commitment' is like
    an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was 'involved' - the pig
    was'committed'."

    -unknown

    Working on a PhD in CQB one doorway at a time.

    When the wolf attacks, he will find not all who run with the flock are sheep!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Citicop View Post
    Two words:

    Accident Reconstruction.

    Some of the most complicated applied physics I have ever seen goes into that.

    -Citicop.
    Yeah, I can see how that would involve extensive calculations. Thanks.

    Would departments/agencies have officers specifically assigned to those tasks? I mean, would they have "regular" patrol officers who are specially trained handle major accidents (as one of many responsibilities), or do they have officers/teams that work ONLY accidents?

    I suppose it would depend on the size and type of agency and how bad the local drivers are... I would also assume that State Police would have more of a need than a local PD?

    Can anybody shed some light on this? Thank you.

  9. #9
    Switchback's Avatar
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    I imagine it could go both ways. However, most og the guys I know that do it were in patrol. A buddy of mine is not a detective, but still does it when needed. I think, in most departments it is a collateral duty.
    We bring evil things to evil people, kicking in a door near you!

    ."In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But,
    in practice, there is."

    - Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

    "The difference between 'involvement' and 'commitment' is like
    an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was 'involved' - the pig
    was'committed'."

    -unknown

    Working on a PhD in CQB one doorway at a time.

    When the wolf attacks, he will find not all who run with the flock are sheep!

  10. #10
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    You use trig functions when figuring out radar errors based on angle of incidence to the subject vehicle.
    Quote Originally Posted by Straightshooter
    Your selective outrage is hypocritical. Don't you have an anti-war rally to attend where you can go burn some American flags with your hippie buddies?

  11. #11
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    Kilos to ounces to grams. Got to know that metric system and how to calculate to translate one form of measurement to the other. :D
    "Man who say it cannot be done should not interrupt man doing it."

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Switchback
    Screw math in LE. You'll find that your kids' math homework becomes rather challenging at a surprising age... regardless of how well you USED TO KNOW IT.
    LOL. I've heard that from so many parents. I once tried to help a 9-year-old girl with her math homework. I could tell her the answer, but I couldn't explain to her how to get to it. :confused:

    Quote Originally Posted by Group9
    Kilos to ounces to grams. Got to know that metric system and how to calculate to translate one form of measurement to the other.
    I'm waiting for the day that they do away with our antiquated (?) system and use the metric system exclusively. We're already buying 2-liter bottles of soda, so I guess that's half the battle. Now if the Quarter Pounder was 125 grams we'd be even closer. ;)

    Quote Originally Posted by Legoate
    You use trig functions when figuring out radar errors based on angle of incidence to the subject vehicle.
    Why would you want to figure out radar errors? ;)

  13. #13
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    I worked with a detective in homicide who has a degree in mathematics from Brown University. The fact he graduated from there says more about him than what his degree was in.

    I used to think that writing skills was the most important thing someone could learn in college and bring to LE. However, after reading a few thousand reports written by college grads, I realized that apparently isn't emphasized in college anymore......:rolleyes:

    The level of degree you need depends on your ambition and what dept you apply for. Where I worked, you could make captain w/o a masters, but it would be harder. About the time I retired, if you were a WM, you pretty much needed a bachelors to get promoted to Sgt. Other depts emphasize degrees less, some probably more.
    I used to be with it, but then they changed what "it" was, and now what I'm with isn't it. And what's "it" seems weird and scary to me. -Grampa Simpson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat_Doc View Post
    You just gotta realize he is hard of hearing and cranky, and try to speak up more clearly next time and make it perfectly clear what you were saying so there is no misinterpretation. You gotta try not to get mad at the old guy, recognizing the issue at hand.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXTing View Post
    Would departments/agencies have officers specifically assigned to those tasks? I mean, would they have "regular" patrol officers who are specially trained handle major accidents (as one of many responsibilities), or do they have officers/teams that work ONLY accidents?
    It depends on the department. At my department, a reconstructionist who works in patrol responds and conducts the entire at-scene investigation and writes the report. Depending on the events surrounding the crash, sometimes a hit-and-run detective (who are all reconstructionists) will also respond to the scene to assist and oversee. Here, the hit-and-run detective takes care of everything that follows the at-scene portion of the investigation, such as the vehicle inspection and any latent investigation that is necessary. Other agencies have teams of reconstructionists who are paged out and work the crash from start to finish. As others have said, it's usually a secondary duty and not a full-time position. That seems to be the way most places handle reconstructions.

    In order to become a reconstructionist, you have to complete at least 240 hours of specialized training. Most of it does involve math, however it's not really difficult math. It's mainly a collection of formulas, and you just have to pick the proper formula and plug in the numbers. Having a degree in mathematics won't necessarily help you that much and it's definitely not necessary. It seems as if the best degree for reconstructionists (who desire to do work in the private sector for insurance companies or attorneys) is one in either mechanical engineering or physics.

  15. #15
    TXTing is offline Banned TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute TXTing has a reputation beyond repute
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeltaV View Post
    It depends on the department. At my department, a reconstructionist who works in patrol responds and conducts the entire at-scene investigation and writes the report. Depending on the events surrounding the crash, sometimes a hit-and-run detective (who are all reconstructionists) will also respond to the scene to assist and oversee. Here, the hit-and-run detective takes care of everything that follows the at-scene portion of the investigation, such as the vehicle inspection and any latent investigation that is necessary. Other agencies have teams of reconstructionists who are paged out and work the crash from start to finish. As others have said, it's usually a secondary duty and not a full-time position. That seems to be the way most places handle reconstructions.

    In order to become a reconstructionist, you have to complete at least 240 hours of specialized training. Most of it does involve math, however it's not really difficult math. It's mainly a collection of formulas, and you just have to pick the proper formula and plug in the numbers. Having a degree in mathematics won't necessarily help you that much and it's definitely not necessary. It seems as if the best degree for reconstructionists (who desire to do work in the private sector for insurance companies or attorneys) is one in either mechanical engineering or physics.
    Thank you for the great info!!!

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