There have been many TV dramatizations of law enforcement in Hawaii with shows like Hawaii Five-O and Hawaiian Eye. In real life, the Aloha State differs from the other 49 by not having a state police agency. As a result, the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) covers the entire island of O’ahu which has a population of 953,207 and a land area of almost 600 square miles. With over 2,500 employees, the HPD is reportedly the largest city police force in the U.S.
Forensic Science and CSI Schools in Honolulu
There are at least four accredited four-year colleges/universities and four community colleges in Honolulu. This includes a unique “Underwater Investigations” Summer Institute program open to students as well as professionals currently working in forensic science. The innovative program is considered one of the world’s best for underwater forensics.
The greater Honolulu area is also home to the Forensic Science Academy (FSI) which opened in 2008 as part of the Central Identification Lab of the Joint POW/MIA Accountability Command that focuses on Americans lost during past conflicts.
The FSI is one of the world’s most scientifically diverse laboratories and the only accredited skeletal identification lab in the U.S. It offers scientific training in forensic anthropology, archaeology and odontology. Areas of study/training include:
- Identifying/reconstructing human skeletons
- Establishing biological profiles
- Determining cause and manner of death
- Land and underwater recovery methods
- Entomology/radiology/forensic photography
- DNA sampling
- Soil analysis
The program includes field training at crash or burial sites in countries like Laos or Vietnam.
Requirements to Become a Crime Scene Investigator or Forensic Lab Scientist
Many Honolulu police department crime scene investigators are sworn officers. The requirements for joining the HPD include:
- At least 20 years old
- U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- High school diploma or G.E.D.
- Meet requirements for possessing firearms
- Pass physical trainability and medical examinations
- Pass background investigation
The crime scene investigation unit additionally requires at least an associate’s degree or special training in forensic science. Criminalists in the scientific investigation section are civilians. Requirements for an entry-level lab forensic scientist position are:
- U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry or a related field
- Valid Hawaii driver’s license
- One year experience doing chemical analyzes in a laboratory OR Master’s degree in chemistry, biology, microbiology or forensic science
- Willing to work shifts and weekends
Entry-level criminalist positions receive a salary of $3,511/month. Information regarding all open positions and the application process is available from the City of Honolulu Human Resources Department.
Honolulu Police Department Crime Scene Unit
The HPD crime scene unit is available 24/7 to respond to the scene of major crimes like homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies and sex crimes. The unit documents crime scenes and identifies, protects and preserves all evidence that might be forensically related to the crime, the victim(s) or suspects. Crime scene investigators (CSIs) often specialize in a specific area such as evidence photography, latent fingerprint gathering or blood spatter analysis. Each CSI is a certified member of the International Association for Identification which keeps members up to date on the latest technology and techniques. The unit assists small law enforcement agencies throughout Hawaii.
Honolulu Police Department Scientific Investigation Section Forensic Laboratory
The Honolulu Police Department Scientific Investigation Service has the only full-service forensic laboratory in the state of Hawaii. The lab offers forensic examinations in the following areas:
- Chemistry – Identifies the presence and amount of alcohol or controlled substances in blood, urine, etc.
- Firearms/Toolmarks – Examines firearm functions, determines distances; compares bullets, magazines, spent casings or fragments; restores erased serial numbers. Analyzes tire impressions.
- Forensic Biology/Serology – Analyzes a wide range of biological material (blood, semen, skin cells, saliva, hair roots) and develops DNA profiles which are compared with samples via the CODIS database (Combined DNA Index) which has over 10 million samples of convicted offenders from all states.
- Forensic Documents – Examines questionable documents for forgeries/manipulations; compares handwriting samples.
- Latent Fingerprints – Uses various powders, chemicals or other techniques to raise latent fingerprints not visible to the naked eye. Compares finger, palm and foot sole prints to databases.
- Trace Evidence – Analyzes a wide assortment of materials like glass, fiber, plastic, metal, etc.
In 2009 the Honolulu crime lab received a $13.8 million renovation that doubled its size and upgraded equipment. The 29,000-square-foot facility now has equipment capable of developing DNA profiles from samples as small as a pinhole whereas previously samples had to be at least the size of a quarter. There is also a $400,000 state-of-the-art scanning microscope and a firearms “library” containing over 570 weapons.