Due to the pop culture treatment of forensic science, people are sometimes confused about the different roles played by the various forensic professionals that lend their expertise to solving a criminal case.
On television and in the movies often times these different roles will be deliberately confused, for dramatic effect. But in real life forensic experts tend to develop in their given fields, and do not haphazardly cross over from one line of investigation to another.
Here we will take a look at the unique roles of three different kinds of forensic professionals: crime scene investigators, lab technicians, and medical examiners.
Crime Scene Investigators
Crime scene investigators generally work at the scene of a crime looking for evidence that may be of use to police, prosecutors, and others who are investigating a crime. Crime scene investigators look for items such as bullet fragments, human remains, fingerprints, DNA evidence, blood, and any other evidence that would be useful to solving a crime. They also perform less glamorous functions such as extensive witness interviewing and community outreach, and even sketching the crime scene and suspect.
CSI professionals hand some of the evidence they collect over to lab technicians for analysis. Lab technicians analyze evidence for patterns, similarities, and other identifying traits. For example, lab technicians may compare bullet fragments from two different crime scenes in order to determine if they were likely fired from the same gun. Lab technicians also perform DNA analysis and other complex analytical studies.
Medical examiners typically perform autopsies, and in many cases, may be involved in examining the bodies of living victims. They are often experts in anatomy and work to help determine the cause of death, identify the remains of a victim, and in many jurisdictions issue death certificates and maintain death records.