Last Friday was a bitter-sweet day for Zac Chwirka and his colleagues at police headquarters in Sioux City, Iowa. It was Chwirka’s last day on the job as one of the department’s lead crime scene investigators after a stellar 30 year career.
Chwirka says that his career has been “everything I dreamed it would be and so much more,” but he also says that he finds it interesting how misinformed most people are about what the job of a CSI actually entails. He says he understands that people get the wrong perception of the job from watching popular television shows like CSI and other Hollywood fare that glamorize the profession with a lot of depictions of things like 3D modeling and the use of high-tech equipment to track down suspects and bring them to justice.
But while Chwirka says CSIs do in fact use plenty of specialized devices and equipment to perform their job, shows tend to “downplay what we do a lot and call us [CSIs] more or less police janitors. We go to crime scenes. We take the pictures, we gather the evidence and process it accordingly.” He says that the outcome of a case can often depend very heavily on how such evidence is processed. He says he also realizes that the innocence or guilt – and subsequently the freedom or incarceration – of the people who stand trial in the cases that he works is determined by the fruit of his labor and that that is something he has always taken very seriously.
While Chwirka says that he is ready to retire, there is plenty about the job that he is going to miss, particularly the interaction with jurors who hear the cases he works. He is confident, however, that the Sioux City PD will have no trouble picking up where he left off and that his replacement, Carissa Roach, has been with the department for over eight years and, according to Chwirka, “She is as ready for this level of CSI work as she’ll ever be.”