As Crime Scene Officers, we strive to be prepared to deal with any crime scene we are called to. But even with great training and a well-stocked crime kit, most of us will eventually end up at a scene where we run into a problem that we can’t easily solve with the knowledge and equipment we have at hand. Sometimes the techniques taught in classes and workshops, or the tools or equipment we have at our disposal simply won’t work given the specifics of the crime scene in front of us. When you find yourself in such a situation, you need to think outside the box. In this article, we’ll take a look at some examples of these problems and the solutions CSOs have developed in response.
Many of you may already be familiar with my first example, the Blue Light Special, which I developed in 1994. At the time, we didn’t have a good option for a light source to view semen, urine, and saliva samples at the scene. The only lights available were large and expensive—in the range of $15,000 to $25,000. Even if we had had the ability to transport these large lights to the scene, the labs that owned them certainly weren’t willing to let us borrow such expensive equipment for field work. So I devised my own solution.
The Blue Light Special is a portable light source that you can pack in your crime scene kit and have available at all times. The unit fits on the head of a flashlight and has an amber viewing shield, which is attached on a swivel clip. In addition, the 455 nm blue filter included with the unit allows you to see semen, urine, and saliva stains right at the scene. Finding these samples at the scene saves you time and effort. Without such a portable light, you would have to collect everything at a scene that might possibly contain evidence. By identifying the evidence at the scene, you have the advantage of knowing what needs to be packaged and processed right away.With the Blue Light Special, I created a light source that is both portable and cost effective.
Another good example of an improvised solution comes from a friend of mine who was working as a CSO in Georgia. For one of his cases, he was digging up a body deep in a heavily wooded area. Just like in any case, he needed to document what he was doing with photography. With this type of case, though, he needed to shoot photos from above the scene to get a birds-eye view of the dig and the body. In similar situations, CSOs often call in bucket trucks—maybe from a tree trimmer or some similar type of service. But in this case, the scene was so far into overgrown woods that he couldn’t get a truck in. He was stuck—until he thought of a way around the problem.
He took PVC pipe and rigged a camera to the end of the pipe. Then he set the timer on the camera, lifted the contraption over the scene, and took the picture. He repeated the process as many times as needed to fully document the scene. With some improvements to this improvised device, Woods created the Eagle-Eye Pole. This device, which is available in either 8' or 16' lengths, has many practical uses. In addition to offering an option for overhead photography, the Eagle-Eye also allows CSOs to photograph in confined spaces such as closets, bathrooms, under stairs, etc. The Eagle-Eye Pole is also useful when you are confronted with a barrier such as a fence, wall, or body of water, or when you want to photograph a scene first before anyone enters it. Again, this product has the advantage of being portable and cost effective—another tool you can count on to help you get the job done.