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(Shutterstock)Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a section of Dick Warrington’s column “Who Says You Can’t Do That” in the April/May 2015 issue that was held because of space constraints. Called “Crime Scene Investigations 101: Crime Scene Kit Basics,” the section documents the necessity for a competent crime scene investigation kit.

Read the print column here.

To make the most of your crime scene kit, you need to plan ahead. In organizing your kit, take into account your own level of expertise — the best crime scene kit in the world is useless, if you don’t know how to use the items inside. 

DNA Collection

In addition to the fingerprint supplies, you also need equipment specific to DNA collection. This includes sterile swabs, sterile distilled water to moisten the swabs, and swab boxes. The swab box allows the swab with the DNA sample to air dry safely.

Additional supplies for blood collection include sterilized cloth squares, sterilized thread, glass microscope plates, a scalpel and disposable blades, tweezers, and small scissors.

Photography

Photography equipment is also very important because you must photograph the scene as a whole, and specific pieces of evidence, like fingerprints, before processing the scene. Many officers rely on a cell phone for photography, but since photographs can be so crucial to a case, you should use a good quality digital camera with adjustable settings and close-up capabilities, A-frame photo markers, photo scales, and a tripod. Make sure to include batteries, digital memory cards, charging cords, lens brush/tissue, cases, etc. in your kit.

In addition to photographing the scene, you need to diagram it. Supplies for this task include 6” scales, L scales, 12” rulers, tape measures, and graphing paper.    

Next, you need evidence collection supplies. These include paper bags in assorted sizes, paper for pharmacy folds, Ziploc bags in assorted sizes, glass vials, and pill boxes (folding). You also need evidence tape to preserve the chain of custody, and permanent markers, ink pens, and pencils to mark the items being collected.

Personal Safety and Experience

Finally, your crime scene kit will include a variety of additional items. These will include basic supplies like a flashlight and batteries, writing paper and report forms, graph paper and clipboard, chalk and crayons, cellophane tape and dispenser, large and small forceps, a compass, a large magnet, 100’ nylon rope, 100’ electrical cord, and personal protection equipment (gloves, booties, eyewear, etc.)

As you gain more experience as a CSO, you can customize your kit to fit your skills and your needs. Your kit may grow from the basic one we have discussed here to contain things like equipment for impression and arson evidence. Remember, you can do a lot at crime scenes, but you need the right equipment. If you take the time to plan ahead, you will be ready for that next call.

Dick Warrington is in research and development and a crime scene consultant and training instructor for the Lynn Peavey Company.

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