Over 9,600 violent crimes were reported in Oregon in 2012, and the work of crime scene investigators contributed greatly to solving many of these cases and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Crime scene investigators are brought onto the scene of the crime as soon as it has been secured. They document the crime scene by photographing, or videotaping it. The Portland Police Bureau uses a special 3D laser scan station to take 360-degree images of crime scenes. This allows investigators to access the crime scene from computers and revisit it as additional information becomes apparent.
Crime scene investigators also collect and preserve physical evidence for further analysis, in some cases performing these analyses themselves back in the lab. Despite the glamour of these positions in the popular media, being a CSI is a difficult job. They are on call 24/7 and need to have a high level of technical skills in addition to keeping their composure at potentially horrific crime scenes.
Oregon Crime Scene Investigation Units
Most crime scene investigators work for state and local law enforcement agencies, although a few consult as expert witnesses for defense attorneys. Some of the agencies that employ CSIs in Oregon include the following:
- Oregon State Police
- Criminal Investigation Division
- Portland Police Bureau
- Forensic Evidence Division
- Milwaukie Police Department
- Criminal Investigation Unit
- Medford Police Department
- Criminal Investigations Division
- Salem Police Department
- Investigations Division
- Gresham Police Department
- Detective Unit
- Eugene Police Department
- Police Investigations
Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator in Oregon
Given the interest in the CSI field, there is a great deal of competition to join their ranks. Several different paths can lead to a career as a CSI. In some cases, departments hire civilians who have CSI training. In others, patrol officers are promoted to become investigators and receive high-level forensic training as crime scene investigators.
Normally, a bachelor’s degree in a hard science or criminal justice is required to become a civilian CSI in Oregon. In some cases, CSIs specialize in a number of aspects of analyzing crime scenes. Other times, they are hired for specific functions such as examining latent fingerprints. Specialists in video technology can work as forensic analysts in one Oregon police department. In such cases, it is possible to get hired with a high school diploma if the person has experience.
State schools within Oregon offer specialization in analyzing crime scenes as part of a criminal justice degree. Another option is to obtain a degree from one of the online schools that offer this type of degree.
A number of police departments in Oregon use detectives to analyze crime scenes. They normally work the cases from the initial crime scene analysis to the court testimony. A degree is not always required to become a law enforcement official, but obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can distinguish applicants to an agency. Recruits will have to succeed in their training at an academy to become a sworn officer.
Other types of LEO CSI jobs involve being a specialized criminalist. To become a criminalist on a police force can require 4.5 years of service in a police department with three of those having been as a sworn member of the department.
All types of CSIs work on continuing their education to keep abreast of new developments in technology. One way in which to do this is to take college courses in CSI and forensics.
CSI Certification in Oregon
CSIs with jobs in Oregon may want to consider joining the Pacific Northwest Division of the International Association of Identification. This worldwide group of forensic scientists promotes the education, training, and research of forensic scientists. It provides certification for those who are skilled in their fields. This type of recognition can strengthen the credibility of forensic scientists when they testify in court.
Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Oregon
Forensic science employment in Oregon is projected to grow by 7.4% in the period from 2010 to 2020 according to the Oregon Employment Department (OED). They provided salary data that showed the average annual wages of forensic science technicians in the state for 2013 to be the following:
- Oregon-statewide: $59,087
- Multnomah/Washington: $61,271
The OED also projected the rate of job increases for the 2010-2020 period to be higher than the state’s average in the following areas of Oregon:
- Clackamas: 16.7%
- Multnomah/Washington: 9.2%
- Marion/Polk/Yamhill: 8.7%
One source of forensic science jobs in the state is the Forensic Services Division of the Oregon State Police. Obtaining these types of positions in Oregon is an extremely competitive process. Applicants with previous forensic lab experience, even as volunteers or interns, have a much greater chance of being hired.
The occupational category of forensic science technicians is a broad grouping that includes scientists who work in the lab in addition to those who work in the field processing crime scenes.
Crime scene investigator (CSI) positions can be filled by civilians or sworn officers, depending on the department. A number of CSIs in Oregon are enlisted personnel. This is the case for criminalists who work for the Portland Police Bureau. In 2012-2013, they started their positions at $77,730 in 2012-2013 and will earn $87,859 after four years on the job.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has provided a detailed breakdown of annual and hourly salary percentiles from 2012 for forensic science technicians in the Portland area. This information is found in the following table: