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

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