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Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Colorado

CSI jobs are often referred to by other names, including criminalist, evidence technician, forensic investigator, crime scene technician and crime scene analyst. At one time CSIs were always police officers; however, these jobs are increasingly being filled by civilians with a background in science. The work of a CSI is hard, physically demanding and often entails emotionally disturbing sights and smells. CSIs are on call 24-hours-a-day, including weekends and holidays.

They spend most of their time in the field where the many functions they perform include:

  • Documenting crime scenes
  • Taking measurements and photographs
  • Collecting, packaging and securing physical evidence
  • Analyzing blood splatters
  • Gathering fingerprints and footprints
  • Finding DNA
  • Attending autopsies to help collect evidence on bodies
  • Writing comprehensive reports
  • Testifying in court

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for CSIs is excellent, with an expected 20 percent increase in jobs by 2018. In May of 2012 there were 260 CSIs employed in Colorado; of these, 170 were working in Denver and 30 in Colorado Springs. The average mean annual salary of CSIs in Colorado is $58,250 and slightly lower ($54,600) in Colorado Springs. (Wage figures were not available for Denver.)

Requirements for Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator in Colorado

The requirements for becoming a CSI in Colorado are agency specific; however, a bachelor’s degree in a physical science or forensic science is increasingly becoming the standard. A forensic science major is advantageous because it includes criminal justice courses.

There are more than eight schools with criminal investigation/forensic programs in Colorado. These schools are located in cities like Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora. In addition to education, a CSI needs to be highly skilled in:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Oral and Written Communication
  • Paying attention to details
  • Working under Pressure

CSI Certification

The International Association for Identification (IAI) offers a certification program for individuals who have been working more than one year as a crime scene investigator. Certification, as well as continuing education, can significantly improve a CSI’s chances of career advancement.

The Rocky Mountain Division of the IAI (RMDIAI), chartered in 1967, is an active professional organization for persons working in forensic identification and scientific investigation. The group offers informative conferences, training opportunities and job opportunities.

Colorado Springs CSI

The Colorado Springs Police Department has an active CSI section that responds to and processes crime scenes that involve serious criminal offenses, trains new recruits and provides community education. Professional services provided by the section include:

  • Crime Scene Response (includes photographing, documenting, collecting and preserving evidence)
  • Bullet Trajectory Analysis
  • Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
  • Latent Fingerprint Processing
  • Footwear and Tire Impressions
  • Photo Processing and Storage
  • Officer and Community Education
  • New Recruit Training at Two Academies

Denver Crime Lab

The state-of-the-arts Denver Crime Lab opened in 2012 after years of planning. The almost 20,000 square-foot-facility shaped like a double helix is a critically important tool for Colorado law enforcement agencies. The lab includes the following units:

  • Forensic Imaging Unit
  • Forensic Chemistry Unit
  • Latent Print Unit
  • Trace Evidence Unit
  • Firearms Unit (with test fire range)

The Denver Crime Lab leadership is dedicated to hiring as many civilians as possible to facilitate the goal of keeping as many cops as possible on the streets. The lab also has a student internship program for promising students that involves two semesters of hands-on work. To date over 200 students have participated in the program. Nine of these students were hired in Denver and many others have been placed elsewhere.

County Sheriff’s of Colorado – CSI Training Program

The county sheriff’s of Colorado have initiated the program, “CSI: Beyond the Basics,” for law enforcement personnel whose duties include crime scene investigation. The prerequisite is proficiency in basic crime scene techniques likes processing evidence, lifting fingerprints and taking photos. The course teaches participants such new skills as:

  • Casting techniques for collecting impression evidence
  • Night-time photography
  • Photographing chemically-enhanced latent bloodstains
  • Interactive crime scene analysis and reconstruction
  • Latent print examination

Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Colorado

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that the 260 forensic science technicians employed in Colorado in 2012 made an average annual salary of $58,350.  Experienced professionals in the top tenth percent of their field earned $77,820 on average.

The field of forensics is growing in Colorado.  The availability of forensic scientist jobs is expected to increase by 2.3% a year in the ten year period leading up to 2022 according to Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment.

This agency provided the average annual salary of forensic science technicians in 2012 in several metropolitan statistical areas of Colorado.  Wages varied greatly in different areas:

  • Boulder:  $55,736
  • Colorado Springs:  $33,415
  • Fort Collins:  $60,188

While many forensic science technicians work in the lab, others work in the field meticulously documenting crime scene evidence.  There are a diverse number of crime scene investigator (CSI) jobs.  Some of these professionals document all of the evidence at crime scenes, while others specialize in things like the analysis of fingerprints or blood pattern sprays.

While a number of CSIs are sworn officers with forensic training, other CSI jobs are for civilians with positions such as lab technicians or crime scene technicians.  Some of the CSI salaries in Colorado are available from state agencies.  In Colorado Springs, the 2012 salary for a crime scene technician averaged $52,320 a year.

The state of Colorado has a range of salaries for fingerprint examiners, depending on their level of experience.  The range of annual salaries for various positions is listed below:

Level of Experience
Minimum
Fingerprint examiner I
$40068
Fingerprint examiner III
$57528

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of annual and hourly forensic scientist jobs by percentile for Colorado Springs.  It is shown in the table below:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Colorado Springs CO
30
54600
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield CO
170
Estimate not released

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, the second largest city in Colorado, was ranked eighth on Forbes Magazine’s list of America’s 10 safest cities over 250,000. The Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office are dedicated to keeping it that way. The two law enforcement agencies work together on crime scene investigation and the forensic science under the umbrella of the Metro Crime Lab.

Requirements for Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Metro Crime Lab hires civilians as crime scene technicians. Requirements for the job are:

  • High school diploma plus additional forensics training
  • Two years investigatory, forensic or law enforcement experience OR bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, forensic science or a related field
  • Valid Colorado driver’s license
  • Ability to recognize, collect and preserve crime scene evidence
  • Ability to work with and at the direction of police officers
  • Basic computer knowledge/Computer Aided Design programs
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Willingness to work shifts and be on call
  • Physically able to stand for long periods, stoop, bend and climb
  • Willing to work outdoors in adverse weather
  • Pass a background check and polygraph examination

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean salary for crime scene technicians in Colorado Springs is $54,600.

Requirements for Becoming a Forensic Laboratory Scientist in Colorado Springs

Requirements for the job as a forensic chemist are:

  • Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, forensics, toxicology or a related field
  • Two years full-time experience in analytical chemistry and operation of a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer OR four years full-time experience in a forensics laboratory
  • Competency in blood alcohol and controlled substances analyses
  • Knowledge of arson analysis
  • Preference given to persons court qualified as expert witnesses
  • Pass background check

The salary for Chemist I is listed as $4,006 to $5,509 a month depending on experience.

Information about open positions and applications for Metro Lab positions is available both at the Colorado Springs Police Department recruitment page and the El Paso Sheriff’s Office employment website.

Forensic Science and CSI Schools in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is famous as the home of the U.S. Air Force Academy; however, the city also has at least six accredited four-year colleges/universities with degree programs in science and five or more community colleges offering associate’s degrees in criminal justice or a related field. Residents can also earn a degree from several accredited online universities.

American Academy of Forensic Sciences

Colorado Springs is the headquarters of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), the world’s most prestigious forensic science organization. The AAFS publishes the Journal of Forensic Science and regular newsletters and holds both an annual scientific meeting and educational seminars. Founded in 1948, the AAFS has 6,260 members from the United States, Canada and 66 other countries.

Colorado Springs Metro Crime Lab Crime Scene Investigation Section

The crime scene investigation section employs five full-time crime scene investigators (called crime scene technicians) from the Colorado Springs Police Department and one technician from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Together they respond to and process scenes of serious criminal offenses. Services provided include:

  • Photographing and diagramming crime scenes
  • Documenting, collecting and preserving evidence
  • Lifting fingerprints
  • Casting shoe and tire impressions
  • Reconstructing crime scenes
  • Analyzing bullet flight paths and trajectories
  • Processing and storing photos/printing digital images

Colorado Springs Metro Crime Lab Forensic Laboratory

In 1993 the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) jointly formed a forensic crime laboratory in Colorado Springs that provides forensic services to the Patrol Bureau, Metro Vice, the Narcotics Division, Sheriff’s Offices and the District Attorney. It was remodeled in 2007-08 to allow for the examination of evidence for the presence and typing of DNA and DNA database comparisons. The lab now employs three chemists (two from the CSPD and one from the EPSO), two DNA analysts and one each latent print and firearms examiners. The forensic lab offers the following services:

  • Ballistics Analyses/Spent Cartridge Comparisons
  • Blood Analyses
  • Blood Stain Pattern Analyses
  • Chemical and Quantitative Analyses of illegal drugs
  • Chemical Analyses of Pharmaceutical and Unknown Drugs
  • Chemical/Forensic Analyses of Arson or Explosives Debris
  • DNA Analysis/Comparisons
  • Firearms Examinations
  • Latent Print Processing (powder, chemicals, alternate light source)
  • Latent Print Comparisons
  • Serial Number Restorations
  • Serological Examinations/Biological Materials Extractions

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Denver, Colorado

The Major Crimes Division (MCD) of the Denver Police Department is responsible for investigating homicides, robberies, sexual assaults, domestic violence and other serious crimes. The Crime Lab Bureau is committed to helping the MCD solve crimes. It consists of a Crime Scene Investigation unit that works in the field and forensic units that work in laboratories.

Requirements for Crime Scene Investigator or Forensic Laboratory Jobs in Denver

Most CSI and forensic laboratory positions require at least a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry or another natural science. Preference is given to persons holding a Master of Science degree. Certain units require degrees in specific fields. For example, DNA specialists need courses in biochemistry, microbiology and genetics.

All Denver Police Department employees are required to pass a background investigation, drug test and physical standards review.

Denver has a wide range of public, private and religious colleges and universities. There are at least six accredited four-year colleges/universities and an equal number of two-year institutions offering criminal justice or forensic science associate’s degrees and/or certificates. In addition, Denver residents can opt to attain a degree from several accredited online universities offering bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

All applications for jobs with the Denver Police Department are processed by the Civil Service Commission which has a list of available positions and online application forms on their website.

CSIs and forensic scientists in Denver earn average annual salaries of $44,000 and $55,000 respectively.

Denver Police Department Crime Scene Investigation Unit

The Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) unit works in two shifts that respond to major crime scenes for the purpose of identifying, collecting, preserving and transporting evidence. Crime scene investigators (CSIs) also attend autopsies when appropriate to gather additional evidence. The unit is comprised of 12 CSIs and three supervisors who respond to over 3,000 crime scenes a year. Although it was traditionally staffed by all sworn officers, the unit has recently undergone a transition to civilian CSIs in order to place more sworn officers on Denver’s streets.

Denver Police Department Forensic Crime Lab

In 2012, the Denver Police Department’s 14,000-square-foot crime lab was replaced with a $36 million, 60,000-square-foot, three-level building that is connected to the 14th Avenue Police Administration Complex. The lab handles over 10,000 cases a year and the new facility not only allows for the consolidation of all services under one roof but provides space for such things as on-site vehicle examinations. The new lab was funded by a bond measure passed by Denver voters.

Denver Police Department Forensic Scientists

The forensic scientists who staff the DPD Crime Lab work in the following units:

  • Firearms and Toolmarks – Examine firearms, restores obliterated serial numbers, matches spent bullets/cartridges to specific firearms and compares them to state and federal databases in an attempt to link them to other crimes.
  • Forensic Biology/DNA – Examines evidence to extract DNA, develops DNA profiles and compares with DNA databases.
  • Forensic Chemistry – Performs quantitative and qualitative analyses of controlled substances, examines fire debris for evidence of arson and analyzes blood in suspected DUI cases.
  • Forensic Imaging/Computer Forensics – Handles digital and video evidence, produces photographic displays and forensically analyzes computer hardware.
  • Latent Print – Develops and analyzes latent prints, compares with state and federal finger and palm print databases and examines shoe/tire impressions.
  • Quality Assurance – Ensures that the lab meets forensic services standards.
  • Trace Evidence – Analyzes such evidence as hair shafts, glass, paint, gunshot residue, metals, rope, fibers, buttons, thread, botanicals, etc. Team includes one forensic anthropologist who examines human skeletons, bones or bony fragments in order to determine identity.  Anthropological analyses can often determine characteristics as gender, age, ethnicity, illness, pregnancy, occupation and cause of death.

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