An evidence Specialist, also commonly referred to as an evidence collector, evidence technician or evidence custodian, is a crime scene investigation (CSI) professional who is responsible for collecting, preserving, documenting, and preparing physical evidence once it arrives from the crime scene.
Because the amount of physical evidence gathered at a crime scene may be significant, the need to have an individual in charge of ensuring that all evidence is properly packaged and recorded is crucial. Evidence received by an evidence collector may include: photographs; film rolls; body parts and fluids; narcotics; money; weapons; and DNA evidence, among others.
Evidence specialists are an important part of CSI teams, as they are responsible for:
- Receiving, maintaining, and releasing custody of physical evidence
- Documenting evidence received and released
- Preparing evidence for storage
- Preparing evidence for laboratory testing
- Submitting and monitoring laboratory submissions and results
- Determining proper laboratory testing requirements
- Sealing, labeling and packaging evidence for laboratory use
- Creating photographs and/or videotapes of evidence
- Transporting evidence from the crime scene
- Preparing evidence for courtroom use
Evidence specialists must ensure that all evidence is processed and stored according to strict guidelines and protocols, and they must ensure that all evidence is properly documented and that all documents relating to the evidence are completed and correctly filed. Their work often involves entering information into a computer database.
These CSI professionals also assist the court, investigators, and other law enforcement agencies who want to obtain information or evidence in storage. They ensure that evidence storage areas are properly secured and that all security standards are met so as to eliminate the possibility of evidence contamination. Further, they also ensure that perishable evidence is properly stored at the correct temperatures.
Evidence specialists are responsible for a number of clerical duties related to physical evidence, so they must be highly organized and meticulous about their work. Their job scope includes: receiving, processing, storing, safeguarding, delivering, releasing, and disposing of highly valuable physical evidence. As such, they must maintain a precise inventory of evidence and ensure that all physical evidence is carefully and safely handled at all times so as to maintain its integrity.
Basic clerical duties for this position also include:
- Ordering and purchasing office supplies
- Serving as a point of contact for the general public, the district attorney’s office, crime labs, and law enforcement personnel
- Educating law enforcement personnel , the courts, and the general public on departmental procedures related to the storage and release of evidence and property
- Receiving and shipping packages
- Assisting in budget preparation
- Processing forms, reports, and documents related to laboratory requests and court orders
- Employing records management and inventory techniques
- Preparing and writing reports
Education and Experience Requirements for Evidence Specialists
Evidence specialists must have excellent written and oral communications; they must have superb organizational skills; and they must have a deep understanding of crime scene investigation, forensic laboratory procedures, and the criminal justice system.
These well-rounded CSI professionals therefore often seek an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or forensic science, supplemented by coursework specific to property and evidence handling, classification, and storage. They must have excellent computer skills and a background in managing a warehouse or storage area or working in a law enforcement setting.
Candidates with bookkeeping and secretarial skills are often preferred candidates for a position as an evidence collector.
Some states have specific requirements for evidence collectors, as well. For example, evidence collectors in Texas must be able to obtain a certificate through the Texas Association of Property and Evidence Inventory Technicians within 12 months of their hire.
Certification for Evidence Specialists
The International Association for Property and Evidence, Inc. (IAPE) is a nonprofit organization that was formed to help establish recommended standards for property and evidence departments.
Evidence specialists can become members of the IAPE and can achieve certification through them either as a:
- Certified Property and Evidence Specialist (CPES)
- Corporate Certified Property and Evidence Specialist (CCPES)
To become certified as either a CPES or a CCPES, candidates must:
- Be current IAPE members
- Complete IAPE’s Property and Evidence Management Training (either in a classroom or online )
- Have at least one year of full-time experience as a Property and Evidence custodian
- Pass a written, online examination that includes 50 multiple-choice questions (exam is based upon IAPE Professional Standards)
IAPE certification is valid for a period of 5 years and is contingent upon maintaining membership in the IAPE.
Salary Expectations for Evidence Collectors
Salaries for evidence specialists are typically reflective of the size of the law enforcement agency. In larger agencies, it is commonplace to have a number of evidence collectors working together, with senior or supervisory evidence collectors earning more than their colleagues.
Recent job postings reveal that the average salary range of evidence collectors is between $35,136 and $48,432.