Crime scene investigators in the Louisiana work every day to make their communities safer and gather evidence to secure convictions. Last year there were 110 dedicated forensic specialists employed in CSI jobs in Louisiana, and many more law enforcement officers with specialized CSI training. Along with lab technicians, together these professionals combined forces to form an effective evidence gathering and analysis team.
Crime scene investigators work with law enforcement agencies across the state to ensure justice is served, and partner in close cooperation with bodies such as:
- Louisiana State Police Crime Lab
- Crime Lab and Evidence Team of the New Orleans Police Department
- Metairie Police Department
- Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Metairie
- Lafayette Police Department
Additionally, a new North Louisiana Crime Lab is under construction in Shreveport.
CSI Schools and Certification
A number of colleges and institutes of higher education are located across the state and online for students who are interested in pursuing a CSI degree in Louisiana.
Associate programs will prepare candidates with a general foundation and an intro to a specific CSI field, while a bachelor’s degree should be considered – and can be a minimum requirement depending on the agency – for candidates who are interested in a long-term CSI career and having more upwards mobility.
Degree programs include:
- Forensic Anthropology
- Criminal Psychology
- Mechanical Physics
It is important to check with individual hiring agencies to determine the specific requirements of how to become a crime scene investigator. For example, bachelor degrees are required for more advanced positions with the State Crime Lab.
When researching how to become a crime scene investigator in Louisiana candidates will find having the right CSI education and certification is essential.
Organizations such as the Louisiana Division of the International Association for Identification (LA-IAI) offer certification for those interested in pursuing a CSI career in the state, including:
- Forensic Science Investigation
- Latent Print Analysis
- Crime Scene Digital Imaging and Photography
The Louisiana Crime Lab additionally offers training to law enforcement officers in areas such as:
- DNA recovery and analysis
- Firearm and toolmark ballistics
- Tread mark and shoe print identification
Recent CSI Cases in Louisiana
CSI detectives were recently able to identify the perpetrator of burglary in a New Orleans suburb after he broke into a home while its occupants – including small children – were sleeping, pilfering electronics and a set of car keys before proceeding to steal the car and escape. Days later law enforcement discovered the car abandoned and crime scene investigators were called to the scene. After recovering DNA from the gear shift a suspect was identified who later confessed to the burglary.
Thanks to advances in technology, detectives were recently able to arrest a Baton Rouge man in connection to an unsolved cold-case murder he allegedly committed in 1992. Because of the thorough work of crime scene investigators at the time, the man’s fingerprints were recovered from the murder-burglary scene, and when compared with a new computer database of stored fingerprints, forensics specialists were able to single out one suspect. Even if justice is served more than 20 years late, crime scene investigators can rest knowing a murderer was taken off the streets and closure brought for the victim’s family and friends.
Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Louisiana
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 110 forensic scientists were employed in Louisiana in 2012. Their average annual salary was $45,520. Experienced professionals in the top 90th percentile of their field earned $63,900 a year. The Louisiana Workforce Connection estimated in 2010 that ten positions a year would open up for forensic scientists over the next ten years.
Forensic Lab Technicians
Many forensic scientists work as lab technicians and are frequently highly specialized. These are some of the types of areas they can work in:
- Blood pattern analysis
- DNA analysis
- Impression analysis—tires or shoes
There are several crime labs throughout Louisiana that hired forensic technicians in 2013.
Louisiana State Police Crime Lab. This lab is located in Baton Rouge. It is a large facility that receives over 18,000 requests for items to be analyzed a year. The lab has increased its employment level and reduced the average turnaround on cases to less than 15 days. One position that 2013 information is available for is the following:
- Crime laboratory analyst I: $31,968 – $63,648
North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory. This Shreveport facility has been expanded. In 2013, it advertised the following position:
- Firearms examiner—Forensics scientist I or II: $38,000 – $45,000
CSIs in Louisiana
In contrast to many forensic scientists who toil in the lab, a number of these professionals work at the scene of the crime. They document the crime scene and preserve critical evidence for further analysis.
In some cases, a crime scene investigator (CSI) is a detective who has been trained in forensic science, while other CSIs are civilian employees with degrees in forensic science or criminal justice.
The average CSI position in Louisiana paid $48,000 a year in the timeframe of September 2012 to October 2013 according to Indeed.com.
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge posted the eighth highest murder rate in the country in 2011 and the twenty-fifth highest rate of violent crime the same year. The current rate of over 1,065 violent crimes per 100,000 city residents exceeds that of even New Orleans, which itself was ranked as one of the nation’s most crime-ridden cities. Law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge are struggling to get a handle on the violence, and have determined that making violent crime reduction a priority will take the efforts of all police officers.
Field crime scene professionals in Baton Rouge play a crucial role in the capture and prosecution of violent offenders by properly and accurately collecting, documenting, analyzing, and storing physical evidence found at crime scenes. They then pass this evidence to lab technicians and scientists who process the evidence and extract fingerprints, DNA evidence, and other clues which will ultimately help with the identification and prosecution of the guilty parties.
The city of Baton Rouge has a number of law enforcement agencies where forensic science technicians and crime scene investigators may seek employment. Some of them include:
- The Louisiana State Police, Criminal Investigations Division – The Louisiana State Police was founded in 1936 by legislative action. They have jurisdiction over the entire state of Louisiana. This force is the largest police force has a sizeable presence in Baton Rouge.
- The Baton Rouge Police Department – The Baton Rouge Police Department traces its roots to 1865, with the end of the Civil War. This is the primary police force within Baton Rouge, with approximately 700 sworn officers.
- The East Baton Rouge Parish Sherriff’s Office – The East Baton Rouge Parish Sherriff’s Office is involved in crime control, but also other community matters such as foreclosure evictions, and serving of subpoenas.
One of the most important aspects of entering the field of CSI is to remember that, though the work may be science and technology based, much of the “in the field” work can be very physically demanding. Baton Rouge has a climate which is hot and muggy, with temperatures often reaching the high 90s. A field CSI agent will have to not only have the patience and physical stamina to deal with long hours in inclement weather, whether hot or rainy, but also the long process that can be the legal system. For example, the 2007 trial for the killing of two LSU graduate students in Baton Rouge was held in 2013, 6 years after the crime.
Recommended Routes to Becoming a CSI Field Agent or Lab Scientist in Baton Rouge
Although there is no formal list of criteria for becoming a crime scene investigator or lab technician in Baton Rouge, the key to being a successful CSI is education and training. The requirements for being hired on as a crime scene specialist vary from agency to agency but there are certain areas which tend to be better received in the CSI community. These degree programs are directly relevant to CSI work:
- Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology
- Bachelor of Science Forensic Chemistry
- Bachelor of Science Forensic Biology
- Bachelor of Science Criminal Justice with an emphasis on Forensic Science
Arguably the most relevant program is any level of forensic science as it most closely comports with what field agents and lab technicians will find on the job.
On-The-Job Training and Experience – Become a Police Officer
Those who have police training have a marked advantage when it comes to being hired for any law enforcement position, be it as a crime scene investigator, or working in the lab. It should be noted that a college degree of some sort is always a plus. But, becoming an officer has its advantages. For example, in a high crime area such as Baton Rouge, police officers are sure to have plenty of experience and training in evidence handling and interviewing of witnesses. These skills go great on a resume when looking to apply for a CSI position. Baton Rouge is also home of one of the state’s Investigative Support Sections (ISS,) which may allow officers who are based in Baton Rouge more access to important training and exposure to CSI field and lab work.
Certification and Continuing Education
Baton Rouge has a competitive employment market. The city has an unemployment rate of 8 percent, which is almost a full percent above the national average. Those who desire to become CSI field agents and lab technicians are advised to gain additional training and certifications in order to show their seriousness to potential employers. The International Association for Identification Louisiana Division certifies qualified CSI applicants in the following areas:
- Crime Scene Analysis
- Crime Scene Reconstruction
- Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
- Forensic Photography
Certification is not a requirement but it is indeed necessary for career advancement in crime scene investigations. Joining an organization such as the IAI will not only help with certifications and training, but will also help with networking and job placement.
CSI and Forensic Scientist in New Orleans, Louisiana
The city of New Orleans was recently ranked the third deadliest city in the United States due to its higher than average rate of violent crime. New Orleans saw 193 reported murders in 2012, which amounts to more than 53 murders per 100,000 citizens. Violent crime in general, and murder in particular, have been rampant in the city of New Orleans for a number of years and as such there is a tremendous demand for qualified individuals to thoroughly investigate crime scenes.
Educational Requirements for CSI Professionals in New Orleans
Crime scene investigation work involves the identification, collection, and analysis of physical evidence found at the scene of a crime. CSI’s are also responsible for the accurate documentation and processing of that evidence which can include blood, hair, and various fibers. The key to performing tasks like these and performing them well is education.
Becoming a crime scene investigator in New Orleans typically requires a minimum of an associate’s degree preferably in a field of study directly or indirectly related to criminal justice. Most police departments, however, mandate that crime scene investigator applicants have a bachelor’s degree.
There are a number of relevant fields of study:
- Forensic Science
- Criminal Justice
- Molecular Biology
Applying for Jobs as a Crime Scene Investigator
Agencies in New Orleans that hire crime scene investigators include:
- The New Orleans Police Department, Crime Lab and Evidence Division
- The New Orleans Police Department, Criminal Investigative Division
- The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab
The New Orleans Police Department also has a Forensic Support Unit that is responsible for providing specialized investigative services including microscopic examinations of firearms and firearm-related evidence, physical evidence comparison, and other crime scene evidence analysis.
Ongoing Education and Certification
Earning a master’s degree in a specific area of forensic science or becoming certified as a crime scene investigations professional are two of the best ways to help further education, sharpen skills, and become a more proficient investigator. Certification requires preparing for and passing an exam given by the American Board of Criminalistics.
Since the proliferation of crime scene investigator-themed movies and television shows the competition for jobs in this particular field has become incredibly fierce. Jurisdictions like those in a city like New Orleans, where the violent crime rate is well above the national average and contributes to the relatively high demand for CSIs, often hire only the most qualified, experienced, and highly educated applicants.
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Shreveport, Louisiana
In 2010, the rate of violent crime in Shreveport exceeded the overall rate for the state of Louisiana by nearly 40 percent. The same year it exceeded the national average by nearly 90 percent. The projected data for violent crime in Shreveport for 2013 is expected to report at least 25 murders, 1,200 aggravated assaults, more than 120 forcible rapes, and nearly 400 robberies.
In Shreveport, law enforcement agencies are locked in an ongoing battle against the groups and individuals who perpetrate these atrocities. There is a need for qualified crime scene investigators and forensic science technicians to help in this battle, as the work of CSI professionals is integral in tracking down and prosecuting violent criminals. Crime scene investigators are responsible for the thorough and accurate detection, gathering, documentation, and storage of physical evidence found at crime scenes. Lab scientists use scientific methods to help analyze the evidence and draw conclusions. Without these skilled and talented individuals it would be impossible to bring those who commit violent crimes in Shreveport to justice.
Law enforcement agencies in Shreveport that hire forensic science technicians and crime scene investigators include:
- The Louisiana State Police, Criminal Investigations Division – The CID is charged with the task of investigating criminal activity and gathering intelligence throughout the state of Louisiana.
- The Shreveport Police Department, Crime Scene Investigations Unit – This is the primary law enforcement unit in the city of Shreveport. CSI professionals with the SPD are likely to have their hands full with cases, both current and cold.
- The Caddo Parish Sherriff’s Office – The Criminal Investigations Unit of the Caddo Parish Sherriff’s Office investigates homicides, physical and sexual assaults, robberies, and other serious crimes in specific sectors of Caddo Parish.
Being a crime scene investigator or lab scientist is serious work. For example, the 2008 murder of Margaret Abbott in Shreveport is still unsolved, 5 years later. Abbott was a schizophrenic who wandered out of the house one night, and never returned. It is almost certain that if this case is to be solved, especially so long after the murder, forensic evidence gathered by a crime scene investigator, and analyzed by a lab scientist, will be needed for a conviction.
Requirements for Careers in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigations in Shreveport
Some community colleges and universities in the Shreveport area offer forensic technician degree programs specifically and directly related to crime scene investigations. Some of these programs include:
- Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice with emphasis in Crime Scene Investigation
- Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice with emphasis in Forensic Science
- Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice
- Associate of Applied Science Certificate in Criminal Justice
On-The-Job Training and Experience
Many aspiring CSIs inquire about on-the-job training. While there are very few law enforcement agencies that offer such training in a formal capacity, some do allow unpaid opportunities for observational work in criminal investigations by request. That said, it is strongly suggested that those interested in a career in crime scene investigations begin to establish themselves in the Shreveport law enforcement community by contacting and networking with forensic science technicians and other CSI professionals before graduation from a degree program.
Another way to enter the field is by becoming a police officer directly. Employment with the Shreveport Police requires:
- Applicants pass a civil service exam
- Pass a drug screen
- Pass an extensive background investigation
- Pass a polygraph exam
- Pass a written exam
- Pass a physical
Certification and Continuing Education
Education for crime scene investigators does not stop once they finish school. New knowledge within this expansive field is extensive and ongoing and as such requires every CSI professional to continually update his or her knowledge base and skill set. The International Association for Identification’s Louisiana Division is an excellent resource for finding and taking certification classes in order to keep up with continuing education.
Finally, many CSIs hold master’s degrees in their area of expertise in crime scene investigations. Pursuing a master’s is one of the best ways for CSIs to sharpen and hone their skills and to stay abreast of the latest technology and innovations in the field of forensic science.
It is important to keep in mind that the education and training of a forensic science technician never truly ends. The complex nature of CSI work dictates that complacency is never an option. The technology and methodology involved with forensic science is constantly evolving and it is critical to keep up with that evolution throughout the course of a CSI career.