Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Hawaii

The collection and examination of evidence at crime scenes where victims are incapable of telling their stories plays an essential role in obtaining convictions against murderers, the perpetrators of vehicular homicides and other unspeakable offenses.

Across the Aloha State crime scene investigators are working on a daily basis at agencies such as:

  • Honolulu Police Department
  • Maui County Police Department
  • Hawaii Police Department

CSI professionals provide justice to the victims of crimes through the collection, categorization, analysis, and preservation of evidence for use in the investigative and judicial processes.

CSI Career Preparation

As candidates investigate what it takes to become a successful CSI officer or agent they will find that all law enforcement agencies require some form of crime scene investigations training, certification, or degree. The following are what some of the major employers in the state are looking for:

  • Becoming a Police Evidence Specialist with the Honolulu Police Department: This position requires that candidates come from an analytic or research experience background of at least one year plus an education that provides a firm foundation equivalent to a university degree in the following sciences:
    • Physical
    • Biological
    • Forensic
  • The Maui County Police Department requires its evidence specialists to have a similar background, with at least one year of experience of analytical, research, or laboratory work in the chemistry, physics, biology, or related fields, plus a background that is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in the physical or biological sciences

CSI Degrees and Certification in Hawaii

CSI colleges and schools provide prospective candidates with the education they will need to be able to successfully pursue a career in the crime scene investigations field, with certification and degree programs located online and across the Hawaiian Islands.

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CSI certification programs are a good idea for students who want to get a taste of what it is like to work in a field that can involve an up-close view of brutal and chilling crime scenes. These provide an introduction to the crime scene analyst and investigator occupations, with an opportunity for additional training in a particular area, such as:

  • Toxicology
  • Genetics
  • Pathology
  • Phonetics

Candidates who are interested in pursuing a long term career as crime scene investigators and moving to more senior and advanced positions can consider studying for a bachelor’s certificate in any of the following subject areas:

  • Anthropology
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Psychiatry
  • Medicine

Recent Cases in Hawaii

In a recent case, the Hawaii Police Department’s Evidence Specialists were called to the scene of a remote forest location where a member of the public had discovered the grisly partial-skeletal remains of a decomposing corpse. Through meticulous examination of the area, crime scene investigators were able to locate the victim’s identification as well as a weapon. The evidence was categorized, labeled, and taken to the crime lab as well as the Hilo Medical Center for further analysis.

CSI specialists work closely with forensic scientists to obtain and preserve the strongest evidence for presentation in court. This is especially true with the Honolulu Police Department’s Scientific Investigation Section, the only full-service forensic lab in the state.

Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Hawaii

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), seventy forensic scientists worked in Hawaii in 2012.  Their average salary was $50,560 a year with those in the top tenth percent of their field earning $70,320 annually.

Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism projects that eleven forensic scientist jobs will become available during the ten year period from 2011 to 2021.  Sixty four percent of these jobs are expected to come as replacement for people leaving the workforce rather than due to the creation of new jobs.

Information on forensic scientist salaries by area is available for the year leading up to October 2013 from  Forensic scientists in Hawaii earned the following average salary over the preceding year:

  • Honolulu:  $41,000
  • Maui County:  $41,000

Forensic scientists generally work either as lab technicians or in the field as crime scene investigators (CSIs).  This typically involves documenting a crime scene and preserving physical evidence for further analysis.

Crime scene investigator positions can be a number of different types.  Some law enforcement agencies use sworn officers as investigators.  They work a case from the scene of the crime through the defendant’s appearance in court.

Other departments hire civilians to be CSIs.  They may be responsible for all of the analysis at a crime scene or they may specialize in areas such as latent fingerprint analysis.  Another term for a CSI is a police evidence specialist.  This type of civilian position paid a starting wage of $38,988 a year in Honolulu in 2013.

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Honolulu, Hawaii

There have been many TV dramatizations of law enforcement in Hawaii with shows like Hawaii Five-O and Hawaiian Eye. In real life, the Aloha State differs from the other 49 by not having a state police agency. As a result, the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) covers the entire island of O’ahu which has a population of 953,207 and a land area of almost 600 square miles. With over 2,500 employees, the HPD is reportedly the largest city police force in the U.S.

Forensic Science and CSI Schools in Honolulu

There are at least four accredited four-year colleges/universities and four community colleges in Honolulu. This includes a unique “Underwater Investigations” Summer Institute program open to students as well as professionals currently working in forensic science. The innovative program is considered one of the world’s best for underwater forensics.

The greater Honolulu area is also home to the Forensic Science Academy (FSI) which opened in 2008 as part of the Central Identification Lab of the Joint POW/MIA Accountability Command that focuses on Americans lost during past conflicts.

The FSI is one of the world’s most scientifically diverse laboratories and the only accredited skeletal identification lab in the U.S. It offers scientific training in forensic anthropology, archaeology and odontology. Areas of study/training include:

  • Identifying/reconstructing human skeletons
  • Establishing biological profiles
  • Determining cause and manner of death
  • Land and underwater recovery methods
  • Entomology/radiology/forensic photography
  • DNA sampling
  • Soil analysis

The program includes field training at crash or burial sites in countries like Laos or Vietnam.

Requirements to Become a Crime Scene Investigator or Forensic Lab Scientist in Honolulu

Many Honolulu police department crime scene investigators are sworn officers. The requirements for joining the HPD include:

  • At least 20 years old
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • High school diploma or G.E.D.
  • Meet requirements for possessing firearms
  • Pass physical trainability and medical examinations
  • Pass background investigation

The crime scene investigation unit additionally requires at least an associate’s degree or special training in forensic science. Criminalists in the scientific investigation section are civilians. Requirements for an entry-level lab forensic scientist position are:

  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry or a related field
  • Valid Hawaii driver’s license
  • One year experience doing chemical analyzes in a laboratory OR Master’s degree in chemistry, biology, microbiology or forensic science
  • Willing to work shifts and weekends

Entry-level criminalist positions receive a salary of $3,511/month. Information regarding all open positions and the application process is available from the City of Honolulu Human Resources Department.

Honolulu Police Department Crime Scene Unit

The HPD crime scene unit is available 24/7 to respond to the scene of major crimes like homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies and sex crimes. The unit documents crime scenes and identifies, protects and preserves all evidence that might be forensically related to the crime, the victim(s) or suspects. Crime scene investigators (CSIs) often specialize in a specific area such as evidence photography, latent fingerprint gathering or blood spatter analysis. Each CSI is a certified member of the International Association for Identification which keeps members up to date on the latest technology and techniques. The unit assists small law enforcement agencies throughout Hawaii.

Honolulu Police Department Scientific Investigation Section Forensic Laboratory

The Honolulu Police Department Scientific Investigation Service has the only full-service forensic laboratory in the state of Hawaii. The lab offers forensic examinations in the following areas:

  • Chemistry – Identifies the presence and amount of alcohol or controlled substances in blood, urine, etc.
  •  Firearms/Toolmarks – Examines firearm functions, determines distances; compares bullets, magazines, spent casings or fragments; restores erased serial numbers. Analyzes tire impressions.
  • Forensic Biology/Serology – Analyzes a wide range of biological material (blood, semen, skin cells, saliva, hair roots) and develops DNA profiles which are compared with samples via the CODIS database (Combined DNA Index) which has over 10 million samples of convicted offenders from all states.
  • Forensic Documents – Examines questionable documents for forgeries/manipulations; compares handwriting samples.
  •  Latent Fingerprints – Uses various powders, chemicals or other techniques to raise latent fingerprints not visible to the naked eye. Compares finger, palm and foot sole prints to databases.
  • Trace Evidence – Analyzes a wide assortment of materials like glass, fiber, plastic, metal, etc.

In 2009 the Honolulu crime lab received a $13.8 million renovation that doubled its size and upgraded equipment. The 29,000-square-foot facility now has equipment capable of developing DNA profiles from samples as small as a pinhole whereas previously samples had to be at least the size of a quarter. There is also a $400,000 state-of-the-art scanning microscope and a firearms “library” containing over 570 weapons.

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