There were over 300 homicides in Alabama in 2011, and a careful analysis by crime scene investigators was crucial to solving many of these crimes. Crime scene investigators (CSIs) are a type of forensic technician. Instead of working in a laboratory, they work at crime scenes—documenting and preserving evidence to be used in determining the cause of the crime and finding the perpetrator.
CSIs frequently work long hours in grueling conditions. Contrary to descriptions in the popular media, it can take a prolonged period of time to apply the results of crime scene analysis to solving a case.
Typically, CSIs do the following at crime scenes:
- Walk through to determine which evidence should be collected
- Photograph the crime scene and the evidence
- Sketch the crime scene
- Make written notes
- Collect all physical evidence that is relevant
- Bodily fluids
- Shoe or tire tracks
- Catalog and preserve the evidence before it is sent to the crime lab
Education and Training to Become a CSI in Alabama
The educational requirements to become a crime scene investigator in Alabama vary greatly depending on the department. Some departments hire civilians to be crime scene technicians or criminalists, while others train sworn officers with years of investigative experience to be forensic experts.
Generally, the basic requirements to become a civilian crime scene investigator are a high school diploma and being able to pass a background check. For instance, the requirements to become a latent fingerprint examiner for a major city in Alabama include the following:
- Training in:
- Classroom fingerprint classification (40 hours)
- Classroom latent fingerprint (80 hours)
- Three years of latent fingerprint
- One year of classification
- Or an equivalent amount of education and experience
Due to the popularization of CSI work in the media, there is strong competition for these types of jobs. One way in which applicants can distinguish themselves as candidates is to get formal training in CSI techniques and analysis. Frequently, criminal justice degrees offer specialties in this field. Criminal justice students are well advised to take additional science courses to prepare themselves for working in this field.
Formal education should enhance the strong intellectual skills are required to be a CSI, including the ability to think critically and solve problems. Candidates should have a strong attention to detail and the ability to keep their composure at crime scenes.
Residents of Alabama can obtain a certificate or degree in criminal justice, crime scene investigation, or forensics at a number of schools in Alabama. In addition, they can obtain training from online schools that offer training in this type of expertise.
Once graduates have obtained jobs as criminal scene investigators, they will need to continue honing their skills. In some cases, this can be done by taking additional college courses. Law enforcement officials who are forensic specialists frequently receive specialized training from the premier crime labs in their area.
CSIs in Alabama can join the state division of The International Association for Identification. This worldwide organization of forensic scientists offers certification for those who have been employed in the forensic sciences and have obtained a level of skill in their field. Areas that are covered include the following:
- Bloodstain pattern analysis
- Crime scene investigation
- Forensic art, photography, and video
- Fingerprints: latent and tenprint
CSI Jobs Found in Alabama
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80 crime scene and forensic investigators were employed in Alabama in 2012. Ninety percent of crime scene investigators work for state and local governments. Thus, county and municipal police departments are sources of jobs for CSIs in Alabama.
In some cases, local crime scene investigators are sworn police officers who have passed their academy training. In larger departments, specialized technicians are hired to carry out specific functions such as analyzing latent fingerprints.
Here is a partial listing of departments in Alabama that have a specialized crime scene investigation unit:
- The Alabama Bureau of Investigation
- Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
- Crime Scene Unit
- The City of Mobile Police Department
- Criminal Investigation Section
- Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office
- Investigative Services Group: Criminal Investigations Division
- Hoover Police Department
- Crime Scene Investigation Unit
- Birmingham Police Department
- Support Services Bureau: Crime Scene Unit
- The City of Montgomery Bureau of Forensics Science
- Crime Scene Bureau