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Crime Scene Investigator Network

Crime Scene Investigator Network Newsletter


Welcome to the February 2014 Crime Scene Investigator Network Newsletter

Protecting the Crime Scene

George Schiro

The most important aspect of evidence collection and preservation is protecting the crime scene. This is to keep the pertinent evidence uncontaminated until it can be recorded and collected. The successful prosecution of a case can hinge on the state of the physical evidence at the time it is collected. The protection of the scene begins with the arrival of the first police officer at the scene and ends when the scene is released from police custody.

All police departments and sheriff's offices should include intensive training for its personnel on how to properly protect crime scenes. Potentially, any police officer can be put into the position of first responding officer to a crime scene. The first officer on the scene of a crime should approach the scene slowly and methodically. In some eases this is not altogether practical. The first officer may also be involved in arresting an uncooperative suspect or performing life saving measures on an injured victim. In either ease the officer should make mental or written notes (as is practical in each situation) about the condition of the scene as it was upon the officer's arrival and after the scene has been stabilized. The officer should keep notes on the significant times involved in responding to the crime scene (time dispatched to scene, time left for scene, time arrived at scene, time left scene, etc.). An effort must be made to disturb things as little as possible in assessing the situation. Particular attention should be paid to the floor since this is the most common repository for evidence and it poses the greatest potential for contamination. Notes should also be taken if the officer has to alter something in the investigation. Some things the officer should note include: the condition of the doors, windows, and lighting (both natural and manmade); if there are any odors present; if there are any signs of activity; how EMS or fire personnel have altered the scene; anything essential about the suspect (description, statements, physical condition, mental condition, intoxication, etc.); and anything essential about the victim. Once the scene has been stabilized, the scene and any other areas which may yield valuable evidence (driveways, surrounding yards, pathways, etc.) should be roped off to prevent unauthorized people from entering the area and potentially contaminating it. Investigators and other necessary personnel should be contacted and dispatched to the scene, however, under no circumstances should the telephone at the scene be used. Once the officer has secured the scene, he or she could do the following: record witness names and others who may have entered or been at the scene; separate witnesses and suspect(s); do not discuss the events or the crime with witnesses or bystanders or let the witnesses discuss these events; listen attentively but discreetly; and protect evidence which may be in danger of being destroyed. Any actions taken should be reported to the investigators.

Many times the arrival of additional personnel can cause problems in protecting the scene. Only those people responsible for the immediate investigation of the crime, the securing of the crime scene, and the processing of the crime scene should be present. Non-essential police officers, district attorney investigators, federal agents, politicians, etc. should never be allowed into a secured crime scene unless they can add something (other than contamination) to the crime scene investigation. One way to dissuade unnecessary people from entering the crime scene is to have only one entrance/exit into the crime scene. An officer can be placed here with a notebook to take the names of all of the people entering the crime scene. The officer can then inform them that by entering the crime scene they may pose a problem by adding potential contamination, and the reason that the officer is taking their names is in case the crime scene investigators need to collect fingerprints, shoes, fibers, blood, saliva, pulled head hair, and/or pulled pubic hair from all those entering the crime scene. This will sometimes discourage non-essential personnel from entering the crime scene. The officer can also stop unwanted visitors from entering the restricted areas. If extraneous people do have to enter the scene, then make sure that they are escorted by someone who is working the scene. This is to make sure that they will not inadvertently destroy any valuable evidence or leave any worthless evidence.

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*Article submitted by the author

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Crime Scene/Evidence Technician  |  Salina Police, KS
Final Filing Date: February 27, 2014
Salary: $15.08-24.07 per hour

Investigate crime scenes. Gather, document, process & preserve evidence. Use specialized equipment and highly skilled photographic & evidence techniques. Compile and retrieve information from computerized database. Testify in court proceedings.

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Criminalist  |  Arapahoe County Sheriff, CO
Final Filing Date: February 25, 2014
Salary: $54,045.16 - $67,066.22 Annually

Under limited direction from the Supervising Criminalist, this position performs a variety of professional crime laboratory/forensic analyses and crime scene duties including recognition, documentation and collection of physical evidence and reconstruction of events as required. Directs activities at crime scene regarding collection and analysis of evidence, and performs professional and administrative duties associated with the processing of evidence. Responsible for the recognition, identification, documentation, and scientific collection of all physical evidence pertinent to the investigation of a criminal act. Examines crime scenes to discover, preserve, collect, photograph, video, and identify physical evidence. Performs latent print comparisons of recorded prints as well as evidentiary latent prints, identifies fingerprints, and utilizes Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems. (AFIS/AFIX/IAFIS). Collects trace evidence. Interprets the scientific data gathered and prepares meaningful reports in a manner to be presented to a judge and jury in a court of law. Prepares sketches and diagrams to include dimensions of scene and to establish location of evidence and relationships of all relevant data. Prepares detailed reports and documentation for investigative use and court proceedings. Prepares, processes and maintains a variety of written reports and records pertaining to lab processes and activities. Documents, handles, packages, and receipts evidence to maintain chain of custody in accordance with established forensic practices under state and federal laws. Directs law enforcement personnel at crime scenes to ensure continuity and preservation of evidence. Appears in court as an expert witness as required. Instructs other agency members in Criminalistics, crime scene processing and training seminars, to include outside law enforcement agencies under mutual aid requests. Makes presumptive field tests of suspected illegal drugs to determine type. Performs various techniques to restore obliterated numbers on firearms and other metal objects. Maintains agency photographic and processing equipment in clean and operating order. May be assigned to train new employees and or act as a trainer to coworkers in specific specialty areas. Operates computers and standard office equipment including commonly used computer software programs. Is committed to a high standard of safety laws and all of the Sheriff’s Office policies and rules and must be willing to report safety violations and potential safety violations to appropriate supervisory or management personnel. Maintains regular and acceptable attendance. Is available and willing to work such overtime per day or per week as the Sheriff’s Office determines is necessary or desirable to meet its needs. Is available and willing to work such weekends and holidays as the Sheriff’s Office determines are necessary or desirable to meet its needs. Performs duties both in the office and in the field. Follows and supports the mission, values, organizational philosophies, operational principals, code of conduct, and policies and procedures of the Sheriff’s Office Interacts effectively with others. Performs other duties as assigned.

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Crime Laboratory Analyst - Digital Evidence  |  Florida DLE, Tallahassee & Tampa
Final Filing Date: June 30, 2014
Salary: $40,948 - $75,650 per year
Analysts in the Digital Evidence section conduct detailed laboratory examination and analysis of computer evidence involved in criminal cases at the request of law enforcement agencies. The results of these examinations are incorporated into written reports which form a basis for associated legal proceedings.

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Criminalist-Associate  |  Charleston Police, SC
Final Filing Date: February 21, 2014
Salary: $38,119 - $42,000 per year

Under the general supervision of the Laboratory Manager, conducts scientific examinations of physical evidence. Testifies in court concerning the results of an analysis and the methods used to draw the conclusions. Provides informational services to the Charleston Police Department, local law enforcement agencies and the community concerning criminalistics and its application. Maintains the chain of custody and integrity of evidence from the time it is submitted to the laboratory until it is disposed of appropriately. Adheres to the management system including the quality policy, quality objectives, terms of service, policies, procedures and instructions. Seeks opportunities to improve the effectiveness of laboratory operations. Performs other duties as assigned.

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Property Room and Evidence Management Technician  |  Coppell Police, TX
Final Filing Date: February 21, 2014
Salary: $19.98 per hour

Ensure that incoming property/evidence is packaged in accordance with agency guidelines. Preserve all incoming property/evidence from contamination, theft, or loss. Maintain and update documentation with tracking information, commonly known as the "chain of custody." Enter necessary data into the property unit tracking system (automated or manual systems). Ensure that all releases and dispositions of property/evidence are legal and accurately documented. Arrange and document interim releases and returns of evidence for court, crime lab analysis, or investigative use. Operate property management software and information systems, as needed. Prepare and forward property-related forms to requesting units and agencies. Serve as the liaison for property and evidence matters between the agency and other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Testify in court when necessary. Maintain current knowledge of federal, state, and local laws related to property/evidence management. Maintain continued compliance with TPCA Best Practices Recognition Program. Provide for maintenance of the storage facility. Inventory property/evidence based on the policy demands of the agency. Prepare for and insure that periodic audits are conducted in compliance with laws, policies and best practices. Ensure that all efforts are taken to make the property unit as safe as possible for employees as well as property/evidence. Store property/evidence in the designated storage area. Ensure that there is adequate security for the Property and Evidence Room, limiting access to only authorized individual(s) and maintain access logs. Maintain confidentiality in the performance of duties. Work hours Monday - Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (subject to 24 hour call-back and flexible hours).

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Identification Technician I  |  Identification Technician I
Final Filing Date: April 15, 2014
Salary: $40,465 - $55,517 per year

In the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, this class is accountable for independently performing a full range of tasks in obtaining, classifying, searching, sequencing, comparing and filing of fingerprints.

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