In recent years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the field of crime scene investigation. No doubt, much of the interest in the field has to do with the incredible advances in technology and the attention brought to crime scene investigation by television shows and other media. But for an officer first starting out in this field, the work can seem overwhelming. You can make the job more manageable by paying attention to the fundamentals. One of the most important things you can do is determine the equipment that is essential to your job. As you gain experience and expertise, the list of equipment will certainly grow and include more specialized items. In this article, I’ll give you an overview of the basic crime scene equipment that every scene officer should have available for every investigation, and then I’ll point out some items you may want to consider for special situations.
Let me begin by first noting that there are numerous crime scene supply companies out there that have put together basic crime scene kits. If you decide to go with this option, you’ll probably need to purchase multiple kits in order to have an adequate amount of supplies. You’ll also need to supplement these kits with other supplies (see below).
Now, let’s take a look at what you need for basic crime scene equipment. First, you need a fingerprint kit. This kit should include different types of powders and brushes to identify prints on different surfaces. For basic prints, you need black powder and a fingerprinting brush. You may want to add white, gray, or silver powder to your kit. These light color powders provide contrast, so they can be useful when prints appear on dark surfaces. If you do use different color powders, you need a dedicated brush for each color powder to avoid contamination. You also need magnetic powder and a magnetic powder applicator. Magnetic powders are sometimes more effective on rough, grained, or porous surfaces, which could become heavily coated with regular powder. You should also include fluorescent powder and a feather brush. This type of powder is used on multicolored surfaces, like soda and beer cans which can present a contrast problem. Note that you also need an alternate light source or a UV light when you use fluorescent powder. When working with any of the powders, you need disposable dust masks and nitrile or latex gloves. You also need a small hand-held magnifier to view the prints.
Once you have the prints, you need to lift them. For smooth surfaces like glass, you need 2" and 4" lifting tape. For multi-contoured surfaces, such as light bulbs and door knobs, you also need 1½" polyethylene tape.