Crime scene investigators may consist of a number of investigative specialists who work as a team at the scene of a crime to identify, collect and process evidence that is then studied by forensic scientists and used to identify the perpetrator of a crime and ultimately to prosecute offenders in a criminal court of law.
Crime scene investigators, depending on their professional scope, utilize a number of state-of-the-art tools and investigative techniques to secure and cultivate physical evidence and create reports that detail their observations and investigative efforts. Physical evidence collected by crime scene investigators is then used by law enforcement officials to solve the pieces of a crime puzzle and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Crime Scene Investigator Career Info by State
District of Columbia
Within the crime scene investigation field, a number of distinct professions exist:
Crime Scene Leader
Although there are often as number of CSI professionals at a crime scene, a crime scene leader, who is likely a crime scene investigator with extensive experience, oversees the crime scene. This CSI job entails managing the processing of the crime scene, which includes working closely with law enforcement officials to seal off the scene of the crime, prevent crime scene contamination, and make an initial assessment of the scene. Once the scene has been defined and an initial assessment has been made, the crime scene leader then oversees a team of crime scene investigators to ensure the proper collection, preservation and labeling of evidence. The crime scene leader also coordinates the collection of physical evidence with crime lab personnel and law enforcement officials, who will then take it to a forensic laboratory for testing or preserve it for prosecution purposes.
Crime Scene Photographer
One of the first CSI professionals on the scene is the crime scene photographer, who must capture the scene of the crime through digital or film photographs. Crime scene photographers must take initial photographs of the crime scene, as well as detailed photographs of the crime scene victims, victim wounds, and all evidence at the scene of the crime. The evidence obtained through photographs often plays a significant role in the analysis of the crime and in criminal proceedings.
A crime scene investigator may specialize in evidence collection. From lifting fingerprints to collecting blood, hair and DNA trace evidence, the job of evidence collection is a crucial one, as crime scene investigators must preserve the evidence and ensure it has not been compromised in any way. Evidence collectors may make impressions of shoe prints, tire tracks and tool marks and recover everything from broken glass to weapon fragments. Evidence collectors may also need to recover evidence from victims found at the scene. Their job requires following a strict set of protocols as to ensure the scientific authenticity of evidence collected at the scene.
The work of a CSI technician is often tedious and repetitious, although it can be incredibly rewarding, as well. These CSI professionals are responsible for documenting crime scenes, processing evidence, examining items for trace evidence, performing tests on victims and evidence, and packaging and transporting evidence to the forensic laboratory. They are also the crime scene investigative professionals who must ensure the completion of diagrams, reports, evidence logs, wound charts, and firearm forms, just to name a few. CSI technicians, both before and after investigations, also ensure that the investigative equipment is cleaned and in good working order and that all supplies are stocked. CSI technicians, although they generally work under the supervision of a senior crime scene investigator, are nevertheless responsible for ensuring that the investigative process is seamless and comprehensive.
In larger crime scene situations, a number of crime scene investigative professionals may be called in for their expertise. Many CSI professionals specialize in a specific area of forensics, including firearms, toolmarks, DNA and fingerprints; therefore, their careers may focus specifically on these areas. Fingerprint specialists, for example, are skilled to identify and lift fingerprints from nearly any type of surface and preserve them for examination and analysis, while DNA specialists are skilled at expertly recovering and preserving DNA evidence.
The forensic artist, also commonly referred to as a crime scene sketch artist, aids law enforcement officials by interviewing witnesses and victims at the scene of a crime as to gather information and make a sketch of a possible perpetrator. This CSI professional may also sketch a reconstruction of a crime scene using forensic information. Forensic artists may engage in: composite imagery, which includes sketching images of the human face; image modification, which includes using computer software to manipulate images (e.g., age progression drawings); demonstrative evidence, which includes sketches and other visual information that is used in court; and reconstructive/postmortem drawings, which use 2D and 3D facial software reconstruction to identify human remains.