Role and Function of a Crime Scene Investigator
With the authoritative bodies on statistics, in different countries, reflecting a rise in crime rates, work seems to be piling up for law enforcement agencies. According to the “FBI Report of Offenses Known to Law Enforcement”, in a city as small as Oakland, California, with a mere population of 407,000 people, larceny seems to be at the 12,000 crimes mark, while something as serious as murder amasses to 110.
Let alone the rest of California, or even the United States. It seems as if crime scene investigators will have quite a job to do. Not just because of the intense nature of the job, but also because the rest of the justice process depends on how well and intricately the evidence has been gathered.
Crime Scene Investigator Job Requirements
The question is, if someone wants to “save the day”, then what is the path to becoming a crime scene investigator?
What is the preparatory crime scene investigator education and are there any good crime scene investigator schools? Surprisingly, there is no direct career path to this critical profession. Crime scene investigators are promoted to this position after having served a couple of years in a law enforcement capacity, whether as a police officer or a federal agent.
The reason that the crime scene investigator career works this way is because the resource needs to understand the complex legal codes and the justice process first. So, as such, there is no one-stop crime scene investigator degree that will land you in the spot. Albeit, a bachelors in Criminology, Criminal Justice or Forensic Psychology is typically considered to be the starting crime scene investigator qualification.
Core Duties and Responsibilities
A crime scene investigator is expected to execute the following duties:
- Prove that a crime has been committed.
- Establish any key elements of a crime.
- Link a suspect with a scene or a victim.
- Establish the identity of a victim or suspect.
- Corroborate verbal witness testimony.
- Exonerate the innocent.
Salary and Benefits of a Crime Scene Investigator
The question might arise in one’s mind, that if the job is really such a tough nut, is there adequate compensation? An average crime scene investigator salary will start at $40K whilst it would increase over a year to 2 year frame. And the benefits might vary from area to area, but all law-enforcement agencies do cater to the traditional medical, education scholarships etc.
So, what exactly is the crime scene investigator job description, right?
In a nutshell, a crime scene investigator handles complex crime scenes such as homicides, sexual offenses, and robberies. Usually, this is a summarization of the crime scene using advanced equipment and techniques for collecting, handling, and packaging evidence. All this collection of different key items from crime scenes are then used at different stages in the prosecution cycle.
Full-Time or Part-Time
A major chunk of the crime scene investigator’s time will be spent either at the crime scene, or with the police or higher authorities to discuss the evidence and its criminal implications. Whatever remains of the time, it is usually spent in an ocean of report-preparing for investigations or making sure that the equipment is always ready to use on a turn-key basis.
The fact that criminals strike when victims are least prepared, means that investigators always need to be on call in case of emergencies. So, the crime scene investigator job description is really not a 9-5 affair, even if that might be the case on paper.
Job Nature and On Scene Work
Collection and Dispensation of Physical Evidence at Crime Scene
The evidence might obviously range from crime to crime, depending on the nature of the crime eg. burglary or homicide, or the objects used by the criminal. However, generally, the crime scene starts off with impressions. These might range from fingerprints, tool marks, bite marks on the body or even footwear impressions to determine the stature or entry path of the criminal.
The forensic side of things might entail items used for DNA testing eg. blood, semen, hair, body fluids etc. Most importantly, quite a few key cases have been cracked when firearm-oriented evidence was left at the scene, eg. bullet casings, cartridges, or even the actual weapon itself.
Case Reporting and Scene Documentation
Once the actual evidence has been collected, the investigator gets in to the summarization of the scenario which includes taking detailed photographs, writing key notes or even sketches where necessary. Finally, the evidence needs to be preserved, whether that is in small sandwich bags or large boxes.
Whilst all this serves as the core of the crime scene investigator job description, another key function is that the investigator may be required to appear at testimony. Hence, the ideal resource needs to focus on not only on his or her work, but also be ready to aid in any other element of the law enforcement process.
Hence, an individual with multi-faceted experience in law-enforcement serves as ideal crime scene investigator.
Assumes a high degree of accountability for delivering the highest quality crime scene investigative service possible. This accountability attaches not only to the actual processing of the crime scene, but includes all follow-up tasks.