Wyoming is one of the largest and least populated states in the Union. Situated at the north-western part of the country, Wyoming is known as being a beautiful state with vast expanses. Wyoming is also considered a very safe state in which to live, with fewer than 25 homicides committed in the state in all of 2012. But, as shown by the homicide spike of 2011, which jumped to 43, law enforcement must continue to remain vigilant if crime rates are to remain in check. One of the most important law enforcement professions is the crime scene investigator (CSI,) which is responsible for much of the post crime evidence collection.
CSI as a profession has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds in recent years. Advances in technology and methodology have made the process of crime scene evidence collection into a hi-tech position, and a sought after career path. Even Hollywood has gotten in on the act, producing numerous TV programs which depict CSI professionals in action. But, being a CSI agent is not fun and games. It is a serious profession which can include not only evidence collection but, also visiting victims in the hospital, at home, or in the morgue, talking to witnesses, producing sketches, and even recreating the crime. Also, the fact that CSI agents often have to appear at the scenes of grizzly crimes should not be overlooked.
In the state of Wyoming CSI agents can be hired by such law enforcement agencies as:
- Wyoming Highway Patrol
- Investigation Department
- Cheyenne Police Department
- Detective Division
- Laramie Police Department
- Evidence Department
- Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation
There are several routes to becoming a CSI professional, with the most popular being through obtaining a university degree, becoming a police officer, and seeking certification.
Obtaining a University Degree
Because of the increasingly technical focus of much of the CSI profession, a degree in a science related field is the best way to becoming a CSI agent. In Wyoming, individual police departments are usually able to field their own requirements for their staff, so there is no firm across-the-board university requirement. However, a degree in a field such as forensic science, biology, or physics is a good start, with preference going to any forensics related degree.
Science related degrees are preferred not only because of the increasingly technical job description of CSI agents, but also because while obtaining the degree, training in methodical thinking and investigation will be imparted. This is one of the most important skills to be used in the CSI field.
Becoming a Police Officer
Another way to get into the CSI field is to actually become a police officer. The advantage of this route is that the applicant will actually have had several years of police training and experience when they look to make the move to CSI. Much of what a CSI agent does may already be familiar to a police officer. But, not all police departments require CSI agents to become sworn police officers. For example, in the City of Laramie, CSI agents, called “evidence technicians,” are not sworn police officers. Rather they are maintained in a non-sworn position. For this reason it is important to plan one’s career carefully.
Generally if one decides to become a police officer with the intent of becoming a CSI agent later, they must still go through all the mandatory police screening and training as any other recruit. This can be a difficult and long process in its own right. For example, in Cheyenne, an applicant must:
- Pass a written exam (cost $35)
- Pass a physical exam
- Pass an oral board
- Pass an interview with the Chief
- Pass a background screen:
- Drug Screen
- Psychological review
It is worth noting that the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation is a particularly good resource of employment and information for any in the state that is looking to enter the CSI field. This division was created in 1973 with the expressed purpose of serving the Wyoming criminal justice community through offering investigative services. It may be worthwhile to check periodically with this division to see if there are any training classes, or internship opportunities which they may be offering from time to time. All of the employment for the Division of Criminal Investigation is handled through the Wyoming State Government.
There are a number of national CSI certification associations and agencies which offer certification to residents of Wyoming in order to help them better prepare to become a CSI agent. These certification courses cover a wide array of disciplines such as:
- Digital Evidence
- Forensic Art
- General Crime Scene Investigation
- Bloodstain Pattern Identification
- Forensic Podiatry
One of the better CSI associations is the International Association for Identification. They have a number of courses, conferences, and publications which are available to their members. The IAI also has a part of their website which is dedicated to job listings, which may be particularly helpful.
Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Wyoming
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forty forensic science technicians were employed in Wyoming in 2012. Their median annual salary was $64,980, while those in the 90th percentile averaged $81,530 a year. A position as a forensic chemist for the state in Cheyenne paid from $42,768 to $50,304 in 2013.
In addition to private employers, there are two state labs in Wyoming that employ forensic scientists. The primary one is the Wyoming State Crime Laboratory. It has sections to analyze the following types of evidence:
- Latent prints
- Trace evidence
The other state forensics lab belongs to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. It has been a national leader in the field of conservation law enforcement and can perform sophisticated DNA analyses on animal remains and weapons with evidence on them.
In addition to jobs as lab technicians, many forensic scientist positions involve working in the field at crime scenes. Crime scene investigators (CSIs) document the site of a crime and collect and preserve evidence for further analysis.
Crime scene investigator salaries can vary a great deal depending on several factors. One is the level of education and experience of the individual. The other is whether the position is for sworn officers or for civilians. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a CSI in Wyoming was $49,000 in the annual period leading up to October 2013.