Crime scene investigators (CSIs) are forensic specialists who specialize in documenting crime scenes and preserving evidence from them for further analysis. These specialists must have a very strong attention to detail, along with highly developed analytical and problem-solving skills. They must also be able to maintain their composure in the face of potentially horrific working environments.
Some crime scene investigators specialize in different types of crime scene analysis, such as analyzing:
- Blood pattern stains
- Latent fingerprints
- Tire or shoe tread marks
Written and verbal skills are highly important, since CSI specialists generate technical documents and sometimes have to testify in court.
Arkansas Crime Scene Investigation Units
Since 90% of CSIs work for state and local government, most jobs in this profession involve working for law enforcement departments. The following departments in Arkansas have at least one crime scene investigator:
- Fayetteville Police Department
- Pine Bluff Police Department
The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock has a number of forensic specialists that primarily work in their lab. In addition, they have six forensic investigators that transport bodies from crime scenes to the lab for further analysis.
Also, the private company Arkansas Investigations specializes in crime scene analysis to advise clients on how well cases have been handled.
Education and Training to Become a CSI in Arkansas
In some cases, to become a crime scene technician in Arkansas requires a high school education, along with 1 to 1.5 years of related experience and/or training. An equivalent amount of education can substitute.
There is a high degree of competition for entry level CSI jobs, and applicants would be well advised to obtain formal training in criminal justice. Many of these programs have a specialty in crime science investigation.
Residents of Arkansas can obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from a number of schools in the state or from online schools that offer this type of training. A good driving record is also important to be a CSI, since the job involves driving to crime scenes on a regular basis.
In some departments, such as the Jonesboro Police Department, detectives handle the analysis of crime scenes. These skilled professionals have years of investigative experience coupled with advanced training in forensics.
Since the field of technologically is constantly advancing, and new techniques are developed on a regular basis, both entry level CSIs and advanced forensic scientists typically continue their education while employed.
CSI Certification in Arkansas
Working CSIs are frequently members of the The International Association for Identification, a worldwide group of forensic investigators. This organization offers certification in a number of disciplines, including the following:
- Crime scene investigation
- Analysis of:
- Bloodstain patterns
- Fingerprints (latent and tenprint)
- Digital photography
- Forensic video, art, and photography
Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Arkansas
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Little Rock area had the sixth highest concentration of forensic science technicians of any metropolitan area in the country in 2012.
Forensic scientist employment in Arkansas is projected to grow rapidly, according to Discover Arkansas. They project the number of jobs for forensic science technicians to increase by 37.2% from 2008 to 2018. This is much higher than the projected growth rate nationally and is one of the highest projected rates of growth in the country for this field.
The average annual salary for forensic science technicians in Arkansas in 2009 was $39,280 according to Discover Arkansas. The BLS indicated that the average salary in Little Rock in 2012 was $40,720 with those in the top ten percent making $57,420.
One of the major employers of forensic lab technicians and crime scene investigators in the state is the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock. The salaries of forensic scientists at this lab ranged from $55,280 to $67,626 in fiscal year 2014.
This lab has a number of sections that employ specialized forensic scientists. These are some of the sections of the crime lab:
- Digital evidence
- DNA analysis
- Chemistry—illicit labs
- Latent prints
- Physical evidence—serology and trace
In addition to working as lab technicians, a number of forensic scientists specialize in analyzing crime scenes. A crime scene investigator (CSI) documents the site and collects physical evidence for further analysis. The 2013 salaries for CSIs in Little Rock are shown below:
The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of hourly and annual wage percentiles for forensic salary technicians in Little Rock in the following table:
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Fayetteville, Arkansas
Although crime scene investigation is an excellent and rewarding career choice, it is not nearly as glamorous or exciting as the televised version. It requires a solid education, hard work, physical stamina and irregular hours. CSIs can be police officers or civilians, however, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the city police department is the primary employer of crime scene investigators.
Other potential CSI employers include:
- Law offices
- Crime labs
- Detention centers
- Investigative firms
- Insurance companies
- Research labs
According to the Economic Research Institute, the average annual wage for crime scene investigators in Fayetteville is $56,911.00.
Requirements to Become a CSI in Fayetteville
The requirements for crime scene technician jobs with the Fayetteville PD are:
- High school diploma or GED plus specialized training or college courses
- Two years related experience
- Valid Arkansas driver’s license
- Possess (or obtain within one year of employment) crime scene technician certification by the State of Arkansas
- Effective Written and oral communication
- Able to use Motorola radio, photographic equipment, laser or alternate light source, electrostatic dust lifter, laser trajectory, blood drying cabinet and superglue fuming tank
- Good physical condition/excellent vision
- Able to lift 150 pounds, walk, stoop, crawl, kneel and climb
Although a college degree is not required, individuals with an appropriate bachelor’s or master’s degree have a significant advantage for this highly competitive position.
Getting the Right Education in Fayetteville
Fayetteville, Arkansas is home to three excellent universities as well as several community colleges.
Crime scene technician certification requires the successful completion of six one-week courses. These courses may include:
- Crime scene management/photography
- Latent print processing
- Biological and trace evidence
- Impression evidence
- Crime scene sketching, note taking and report writing
- Crime scene investigation
How to Apply for a CSI Job in Fayetteville, Arkansas
Available positions with the Fayetteville police department, information about the hiring process and application forms are available from the Fayetteville Human Resources Department, located at City Hall, rooms 112-116, 113 W. Mountain Road, Fayetteville, AR 72701; telephone: 479-575-8278. The information is also available at the Human Resources website. The monthly salary for the job of crime scene technician with the Fayetteville police department is $2,577.47 to $3,927.73.
Fayetteville Police Department Crime Scene Investigators
Crime scene investigations in Fayetteville are the responsibility of the police department’s crime investigation unit, which consists of a Sergeant and nine investigators. Crimes handled by the unit include homicide, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, forgery and financial crimes. The position of crime scene technician (same as CSI) was added to the unit in March of 2001. This individual works with the unit’s detectives. His/her duties include:
- Documenting the crime scene
- Collecting and preserving physical evidence such as blood, hair, fibers, tissue samples, glass, paint, soil, liquids, etc.
- Photographing and videotaping the crime scene
- Lifting latent fingerprints
- Analyzing blood splatters
- Performing chemical tests on collected evidence
- Conducting firearms tests
- Analyzing evidence/preparing written reports
- Testifying in court
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock employs more law enforcement and civilian crime scene investigators (CSIs) than any other place in the state. They are employed by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, criminal defense lawyers, private investigation firms and insurance companies.
Arkansas Investigations is a large private investigation firm based in Little Rock that hires forensic scientists and crime scene investigators for such tasks as computer forensics, fingerprint analysis and evidence interpretation/analysis.
Requirements for Crime Scene Specialists with the Little Rock Police Department
A job announcement from the Little Rock Police Department states that the following requirements must be met in order to become a crime scene investigator:
- Two years college with a major in criminal justice, crime scene investigation, forensic science, or a related field
- One year experience in crime scene investigations or related work
- Knowledge of how to gather and preserve physical evidence
- Knowledge of photographic and videotaping methods/techniques
- Knowledge of computer-aided drafting
- Knowledge of methods for restoring evidence
- Valid Arkansas driver’s license
- Willingness to work rotating shifts and be on call 24/7
- Able to pass background test and fingerprint search
Although only two years of college is required to apply, these jobs are highly competitive and individuals with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field have a distinct advantage.
There are approximately 17 colleges and universities in Arkansas, including the main campus of Arkansas’s largest universities, which offer bachelors, master’s and doctoral degrees in forensic science. There are six accredited schools in Little Rock that have criminal justice programs from which 119 students graduated during the 2008-09 school year alone.
The average annual salary for crime scene investigators in Little Rock is between $35,000 and $50,000. The annual salary for the crime scene specialist I job with the Little Rock police department is advertised as $32,969 to $50,272.
Crime Scene Investigator jobs with the Little Rock Police Department are posted online, along with application forms, at the City of Arkansas Human Resources website
Duties of Little Rock Police Department Crime Scene Investigators
CSIs with the Little Rock Police Department are police officers who conduct detailed crime scene examinations. Duties of a Crime Scene Specialist I include:
- Photograph crime scenes
- Create a scale drawing of scene
- Collect all manner of physical evidence
- Prepare evidence submission forms for the state crime lab
- Extract gunshot residue from victims, suspects and objects
- Lift latent fingerprints
- Conduct chemical tests on blood, drugs, bodily fluid, fibers, etc.
- Interpret/analyze crime scene evidence
- Prepare detailed reports about crime scene evidence
- Testify in court
- Prepare monthly reports
Arkansas State Crime Lab in Little Rock
Little Rock is home to the state crime lab that provides forensic analyses and assistance with crime scene investigations to all law enforcement agencies in the state of Arkansas. The forensic services offered include:
- Combined DNA Index System (5 employees)
- Digital evidence (3)
- Firearms/Toolmarks (8)
- Forensic Chemistry (14)
- Forensic DNA (11)
- Forensic Toxicology (9)
- Latent prints (6)
- Physical evidence/serology (13)
- Trace evidence (4)
All jobs with the state crime lab require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a natural science like chemistry or biology. Certain units, like DNA analysis, require courses in molecular or cell biology, genetics and biochemistry.