According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, crime scene investigators (CSIs) in Delaware are the fourth highest paid in the nation, earning an annual mean salary of $77,960 or $37.48 an hour. Even more important, CSIs have the non-monetary benefit of knowing their work is critically important in solving crimes. The evidence collected and processed by CSIs has become the most important factor in ensuring that justice is served by sending a criminal to prison or feeing an innocent one.
CSI Jobs in Delaware
The goal of a crime scene investigation unit is to collect, preserve, package, transport and document physical evidence from a crime scene. A crime scene investigator’s job may be full- or part-time depending on the location. Crime scene investigators in California are easily kept busy full-time in large, metropolitan areas where crimes are everyday occurrences but it might be part-time work in sparsely populated areas. However, once a crime is committed, CSIs work long hours during which they must pay close attention to detail. Obviously, a CSI doesn’t walk away in the middle of a crime scene examination because the clock says the work day is over.
The types of physical evidence collected by CSIs include:
- Forensic: blood, bodily fluids, hair, nail scrapings, bloodstain patterns
- Trace: paint, glass, fibers, fire accelerant, gunshot residue
- Impression: fingerprints, footwear, fabric impressions, tire marks, bite marks
- Firearms: weapons, bullet casings, gun powder patterns, cartridges, fragments
The importance of physical evidence cannot be overstated. It may be responsible for:
- Proving a crime has been committed
- Linking a suspect to a crime
- Substantiating key elements of a crime
- Identifying a victim or suspect
- Corroborating witness testimonies
- Exonerating an innocent suspect
Requirements for Becoming a CSI in Delaware
Although actual requirements differ between employers, education and experience are the two key qualifications for becoming a crime scene investigator in Delaware. Some agencies will hire low-level CSIs with an associate’s degree but most require at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, chemistry, etc. More and more institutions of higher education in Delaware are offering degree programs and training in crime scene investigation. There is one school in Delaware with a CSI program from which 17 students graduated in the 2008-09 school year.
Students hoping to pursue a career as a CSI would be wise to take advantage of any available student internship programs. Most entry-level CSIs are given an extensive period of on-the-job training during which time they work under the close supervision of an experienced colleague. Continuing education is the key to advancement, especially CSI certification offered by the International Association of Identification (IAI).
The Chesapeake Bay Division of the IAI serves CSIs in Delaware, Maryland, DC, Virginia and West Virginia. They have conferences, post job notices, offer a variety of educational opportunities and provide certification. Persons eligible to take the certification test must have at least one full year’s crime scene investigation experience and have completed 48 hours of board-certified courses within the last five years. The Chesapeake Bay IAI offers numerous internet courses for a reasonable fee. For example, their 16-hour “Intermediate CSI” course covers situations not encountered on a daily basis, including:
- Casting footwear under water
- Lifting fingerprints from skin
- Tire track measurement
- Bloodstain documentation
- Forensic light source techniques
Dover Police Department CSI Division
Police officers have been investigating crime scenes for many decades; however, rapid technological advances and the institution of crime scene investigation as a specialized profession is resulting in changes in police department activities. The Police Department in Dover, Delaware’s capital city, formed a CSI unit in 2010 which became fully functioning in March of 2011. Under the direction of Det. Larry Simpkiss, a graduate of the prestigious National Forensic Academy, the Dover Police Department CSI unit utilizes the latest and most innovative evidence collecting techniques.
Cooperative University/Business Venture Advances CSI Technology
Delaware State University, in cooperation with the Delaware Departments of Public Safety and Homeland Security, is involved in a cooperative venture with Advanced Response Concepts Corporation, a Massachusetts-based technology company. They are developing a new CSI tool that utilizes a tablet computer to take photographs and record sound. Called “Condor,” the hand-held device reduces the amount of paperwork by allowing CSIs to record crime-scene evidence more rapidly and efficiently, thereby improving both the accountability and integrity of the process.