Crime scene investigators preserve the evidence from crime scenes, enabling it to be analyzed further in a laboratory. This can be a grueling job with long hours potentially involving work on violent crime scenes.
Crime scene investigators are a vital component of law enforcement in Arizona, a state that had 345 murders and over 1,500 cases of rape reported in 2012. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona had the second highest concentration of forensic science jobs in the country in 2012, including crime scene investigators. In fact, the Phoenix/Mesa/Glendale metropolitan area had the highest level of employment for CSI professionals in the country. In 2012, 71% of the crime scene investigation jobs in Arizona were in the Phoenix/Mesa/Glendale area.
The average salary in this field for 2012 is listed for the following cities:
- Flagstaff: $62,640
- Phoenix/Mesa/Glendale: $56,380
- Tucson: $51,500
Education and Training to Become a CSI in Arizona
The larger police departments in Arizona hire civilians as crime scene investigators. Frequently, they are referred to as crime scene specialists or criminalists. While applicants for these positions do not have to attend and pass a law enforcement academy, a substantial amount of training is required for these jobs.
Typically, CSI jobs in Arizona require a bachelor’s degree, either in criminal justice or in chemistry. This type of position requires a high level of problem solving and analytical skills, in addition to the technical knowledge to preserve and analyze crime scenes. Communication skills are also important, since CSIs have to prepare technical reports and may have to testify in court.
Such training can be obtained from a number of schools within Arizona or from online schools that offer criminal justice degrees. In some cases, an extensive background in photography will qualify applicants for entry-level crime scene specialist positions.
Typically, background checks and polygraph examinations are required to be hired as CSIs in Arizona. A driver’s license is usually required, since these professionals will frequently be driving to crime scenes. In some cases, applicants will have to pass a medical test to ensure that they can be certified to wear a tight-fitting respirator.
In other law enforcement agencies, CSIs are sworn officers who have a shown a great deal of skill in investigating crimes and have obtained advanced training in forensics. Applicants for such positions have to pass a rigorous screening and background check. Formal education in criminal justice can also be a help to applicants for such positions.
Both civilian and law enforcement officers who are CSIs must continually update their education to keep abreast of the rapidly changing fields in forensic science. One way in which to do this is to take additional college courses.
CSI Certification in Arizona
Professional CSIs in Arizona may want to join the Arizona Identification Council and obtain certification for their forensic discipline(s). This is the Arizona Division of the International Association for Identification, a worldwide group of forensic specialists. Recent courses in Arizona have included:
- Advanced digital photography
- Bloodstain patterns
- Fingerprint ACE-V training
Arizona Crime Scene Investigation Units
In the U.S., 90% of CSIs work for state and local governments, typically for law enforcement agencies. The following law enforcement organizations in Arizona have crime scene investigation units:
- Arizona Department of Public Safety
- Tucson Police Department
- Chandler Police Department
- Phoenix Police Department
- Mesa Police Department
In some cases, they are referred to as Crime Scene Response Units.