How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator Forensic Scientist in Mesa, Arizona

The Mesa Police Department Forensic Services Section includes both the crime scene unit and the forensic science laboratory.

Crime scene investigators, called crime scene specialists, are responsible for:

  • Photographing the crime scene
  • Recovering/processing latent prints, taking inked prints
  • Collecting and preserving physical evidence
  • Casting tire prints
  • Developing composites
  • Testifying in courts of law

All crime scene specialists receive extensive training at the Mesa Police Department Crime Scene Academy and are called upon to work nights, weekends and holidays.

Requirements for CSI or Forensic Lab Technician Jobs in Mesa

Jobs with the Mesa Police Department Forensic Science Section are classified as either “technical” or “forensic science” positions.In general, forensic positions require a college degree while technical jobs do not. Technical and forensic jobs both require:

  • Valid Arizona driver’s license
  • Background investigation
  • Polygraph and substance abuse tests

Other requirements for specific technical jobs are as follows:

  • Crime Scene Specialist – Complete 64 college credit hours in forensic science, photography or a natural science OR two years crime scene experience.
  • Senior Crime Scene Specialist – All of the above plus certification as a CSI from the International Association for Identification. Must also be qualified to wear a tight-fitting respirator and pass medical and psychological exams.
  • Fingerprint Examiner – High school diploma or its equivalent and one year fingerprint experience.
  • Photographic Technician – College-level courses in photography and digital imaging techniques plus working knowledge of computers and two years experience in a photography lab.

Annual salary for entry-level technical jobs is $38,459 – $51,771.

Other requirements for specific forensic jobs are as follows:

  • Forensic Scientist I – Bachelor of Scientist degree in chemistry or another natural science (biochemistry, genetics or molecular biology preferred for DNA unit). Salary $44,532 to $66,081. Forensic Scientist II and III require more experience and graduate level studies. Salaries range from $56,825 to $92,976.
  • Firearms Examiner – Bachelor of Science in chemistry, biochemistry or a related field. Some experience in a forensic crime lab desirable. Salary $49,088 to $66,081. Forensic Examiner II requires additional years experience and membership in the Association of Firearms and Toolmark Examiners. Salary $56,824 to $76,502.
  • Latent Print Examiner I – Bachelor of Science degree plus one year experience in an accredited forensic lab. Salary $44,532 to $59,945. Latent Print Examiner II also requires certification by the International Assoc. of Crime Lab Directors. Salary $54,121 to $72,862.

A list of open technical and forensic positions is available at the City of Mesa Jobs page.

There are at least four community colleges offering associate’s degrees in criminal justice or a related field. A four-year university offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the natural sciences is within five miles of Mesa.

Mesa Police Department Forensic Science Laboratory

The Mesa Police Department is justifiably proud of its nationally accredited crime lab which received an “Excellence in Forensic Science” award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 2011. The lab employs over 70 people who process more than 35,000 requests a year. Their state-of-the-arts DNA equipment allowed them to recently reopen and solve a 33-year-old cold case. The Mesa lab began providing service to the police in Gilbert, AZ in 2012. The lab’s specialized units are:

  • Biology. Identifies/analyzes biological substances. Develops DNA profiles and compares them with those in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
  • Controlled Substances. Examines evidence for the presence of narcotics/other controlled substances. Trains police officers who do preliminary drug testing.
  • Evidence Processing. Processes and analyzes all physical evidence from crime scenes not covered by other units.
  • Fingerprint Identification. Processes fingerprints through the Arizona Automated Fingerprint Identification System database, compares ink prints and maintains fingerprint records.
  • Firearms. Examines firearms and Toolmark evidence to link with a crime or suspect. Tests firearms, determines distances, restores obliterated serial numbers, reconstructs shooting incidents and runs comparisons with the National Integrated Ballistics Network.
  • Latent Print. Performs scientific examinations like friction ridge analysis on latent prints and compares with finger and palm print databases.
  • Photo Lab. Produces digital, color and black and white prints, processes film and digital photos and manages photo files.
  • Quality Assurance. Verifies compliance with policies/procedures, validates new technical processes, investigates technical difficulties, maintains inventory and performs safety inspections.
  • Toxicology. Performs blood alcohol analyses, screens urine for drugs and oversees breath-alcohol testing.

Forensic scientist from all units are called upon to give expert witness testimony.

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