A crime scene investigation (CSI) technician, also often referred to as a crime scene evidence technician, is a crime scene investigative professional who works under the supervision of a crime scene leader or field supervisor.
Like the crime scene leader, the crime scene investigation (CSI) technician is responsible for all aspects of crime scene evidence collection. This may include collecting evidence, documenting evidence, and submitting the evidence to the crime laboratory. These forensic specialists may also assist the crime scene leader with planning, organizing, storing and processing evidence according to strict protocols, policies, procedures and laws.
Although CSI technicians serve under a crime scene supervisor, these professionals are responsible for ensuring that a number of duties and tasks are completed at the scene of the crime. Specifically, CSI technicians may:
- Coordinate the evidence team at the crime scene
- Collect, process and package physical evidence collected at the crime scene
- Keep accurate records to ensure proper evidence handling
- Establish and maintain records of physical evidence collection
- Communicate with law enforcement personnel regarding crime scene procedures and protocol
- Ensure supplies are stocked and available for crime scene investigation personnel
- Ensure equipment is clean, maintained and in good, working order
- Ensure procedures are followed by all members of the evidence team when identifying, collecting and processing physical evidence
- Package and transport physical evidence to the forensic crime laboratory
In smaller law enforcement agencies, CSI technicians may also be called to:
- Photograph crime scenes and physical evidence
- Engage in evidence-gathering techniques to secure physical evidence
- Identify fingerprints at the crime scene and lift latent fingerprints
- Photograph and fingerprint suspects, victims and witnesses
- Prepare court presentations of physical evidence
Education and Experience Requirements for CSI Technicians
Although a CSI technician is, generally speaking, an entry-level position within the crime scene investigation field, these professionals are, nevertheless, educated and trained in the biological and forensic sciences and the criminal justice field.
Many CSI technicians use the experience gained through this position to go on to achieve specialized jobs within the field of crime scene investigation; therefore, the position of a CSI technician is one of importance for those seeking to achieve longevity in this field.
Smaller law enforcement agencies often seek candidates with at least one or two years of experience working for a law enforcement agency at the local, state or federal level, along with an associate’s degree or higher in criminal justice, criminology, forensic science, or one of the social or physical field sciences.
Often times a combination of experience and education is acceptable for meeting the minimum experience requirements.
Other common requirements for CSI technician jobs include:
- A current driver’s license and a clean driving record
- Effective oral and written communication skills
- Basic PC skills
- The ability to pass a background investigation, polygraph examination, and drug screening
- No felony or Class A or B misdemeanor convictions
Larger law enforcement agencies may have slightly more stringent minimum qualifications, such as a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in forensic science, criminal justice, or one of the natural sciences. In lieu of a bachelor’s degree, many employers will accept the completion of at least 64 credit hours of college coursework from an accredited college or university, along with a minimum GPA.
Candidates working toward their bachelor’s degree are often best prepared by completing coursework in biology/biochemistry, chemistry and forensic science.
A comprehensive, formal education is crucial for CSI technicians, as this profession calls for individuals who have:
- Knowledge of the criminal justice system and law enforcement activities
- The ability to communicate effectively with law enforcement personnel and other crime scene investigation professionals
- Knowledge of local, state and federal law enforcement procedures and practices regarding evidence handling and crime scenes
- The ability to learn photography techniques
- The ability to use equipment, supplies and techniques for identifying and processing physical evidence
- Knowledge of physical evidence gathering and preserving
- Knowledge of the rules of evidence and court methods and procedures
- Knowledge of safety precautions and hazards related to chemicals and equipment used for evidence collection
- The ability to provide accurate and professional testimony in a court of law
- The ability to establish and maintain working relationships with an evidence team, crime scene leader, court personnel, and federal, state and local enforcement personnel
Professional Certification for CSI Technicians
Depending on the state or the employer, many CSI technicians are required to become certified through the International Association for Identification (IAI) as a Certified Crime Scene Investigation within a specific period of time upon being hired.
To become certified as a Crime Scene Investigator, candidates must:
- Have at least one year of crime-scene related experience
- Have completed at least 48 hours of Crime Scene Certification Board-approved instruction within the last 5 years
Salary Expectations for CSI Technicians
Like most CSI jobs, salaries are often reflective of the geographic location and the size of the law enforcement agency. Recent job postings reveal a starting salary range of between $24,364 and $49,836.