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

Tucson has a higher crime rate than the rest of Arizona, but the Tucson Police Department is dedicated to preventing crime and protecting life and property.

The Tucson Police Department crime scene investigation team is at the site whenever a serious crime occurs in the city. The team is responsible for photographically documenting the crime scene and collecting such evidence as DNA, fingerprints, bullet casings, bodily fluids, hair, fabric, tire marks, etc. The evidence is processed and turned over to the forensic crime lab for analysis.

At the present time the Tucson Police Department is actively recruiting crime scene investigators (CSIs). Due to retirements and promotions, the crime scene investigation team currently has only 11 members, a number they would like to see doubled.

Requirements for Criminal Investigation Jobs in Tucson

CSI Professionals – The requirements for the job of crime scene investigator in Tucson are:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Photography experience
  • Submit to a background investigation and drug screening
  • Successfully pass written exam and oral interview

The pay is $17.00 to $29.00 an hour depending on experience. Apply through the City of Tucson’s online employment system.

There are at least four two-year community colleges in Tucson which offer associate’s degrees in criminal justice as well as three four-year institutions that offer bachelor’s or master’s degrees in chemistry or other natural sciences.

Forensic Lab Professionals – There are currently 160 forensic scientists working in the Tucson Metropolitan Area. In addition to the police department crime lab, forensic scientists are employed by educational institutions as well as private research and analytical laboratories. All forensic scientist jobs require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in chemistry or another science.

Qualifications for employment with the Tucson Police Department Crime Lab vary depending upon the unit to be worked in. However, a Bachelor of Science degree is a minimal requirement. For further information contact Crime Lab Supervisor Susan Shankles. Visit the City of Tucson employment website for a list of open job opportunities at the Tucson crime lab and online application forms.

The average annual salary for forensic scientists in Tucson is $51,140 which is slightly less than the national average.

Tucson Police Department Forensic Crime Laboratory

Founded in 1960, the Tucson crime lab is the oldest crime lab in Arizona and one of the first in the nation to become accredited by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors Lab Accreditation Bureau. The staff of 31 consists of a crime lab supervisor, one quality assurance manager, four lab coordinators, 20 criminalists (another name for forensic scientist), three digital media analysts and one administrative professional. The lab’s seven operational units are as follows:

  • Forensic Biology- Handles such DNA sources as blood, semen, saliva, hair, fingernails and skin cells found on clothing, bed linens, drink containers, cigarette butts, etc.  Comparisons are made using the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database. The unit’s seven forensic scientists include a coordinator, one DNA technical leader and five criminalists.
  • Firearms Identification/Toolmark Comparison- The unit’s two criminalists attempt to link spent cartridge cases and bullets to a particular firearm and/or suspect. They also determine muzzle-to-target distances, identify toolmarks and use national databases to compare firearms used in various crimes.
  • Latent Prints- Identifies latent finger, palm and foot prints and compares them with those on state and national latent print databases. The unit’s six forensic scientists are often called upon to testify in court.
  • Chemical Analysis- Analyzes powders, tablets, capsules and unknown substances suspected of containing drugs or narcotics and testifies about the results in court. The unit employs three criminalists and one coordinator.
  • Toxicology- Three criminalists and one coordinator focus on analyzing blood samples for the presence of alcohol or narcotics.
  • Arson and Explosives- The unit’s one specialist examines fire debris and explosive residues for the presence of ignitable liquids or evidence of chemicals responsible for a fire or explosion. Provides expert testimony in courts of law.
  • Forensic Electronic Media Unit- Specializes in computer, mobile device and audio/video forensics. The unit’s three members are the lab’s only forensic scientists that regularly respond to crime scenes to collect and preserve digital evidence for subsequent analysis.

Each unit has its own training program for new hires. The training period varies from one to three years depending upon the unit. The Tucson crime lab does not offer student internships.

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