In order to take advantage of the latest advances in technology and science, a crime scene officer needn't acquire the same level of knowledge as the experts, but must have enough knowledge to recognize what the experts can accomplish with the right evidence.
In order to be useful, a checklist needs to be both easy to use and comprehensive.
Investigations and evidence collection can take one into unusual settings including inside confined spaces. Many locations may appear relatively benign but can hold hidden hazards with potentially fatal consequences for any who enter unprepared.
I can’t say enough about avoiding cross contamination. Put on gloves, use gloves, change gloves. Do that every time you touch a piece of evidence.
If a body is found in a vehicle, document as much as possible about the location, the vehicle, and its condition. Be specific as to the location of the body. Is it in the front seat, back seat, driver’s side, passenger side, floor, trunk, etc?
Arguably, the most important person at a crime scene is the first officer to arrive. The manner in which he initially handles a crime scene can dictate how things go in the overall investigation.
An understanding of what your lab is capable of can make you smarter about how you process a crime scene. Keep up with the technology your lab has and determine how that changes your job.
Before you step under the tape, stop and study the tracks going into and out of the crime scene. Compare tracks to the tread pattern of those at the scene, and take care not to damage any tracks on your way in.
Once the scene is processed, it can be released. Before release, do a final walk through with a fresh look. You might see something you missed. Document the date and time of release as well as the name, address, and phone of the person the scene was released to.
When dealing with a body found in or near the water, the first thing to do is record information about the location. What is the water type? Document everything about the location of the scene and the body within it.
When patrol officers and/or first responders arrive at the scene, they should look for dust footprints by taking a flashlight and rolling it along the floor.
Non-invasive methods such as ground-penetrating radar, terrain conductivity, thermal infrared imagery, as well as magnetometers and metal detectors should be used to get maximum information on what lies below ground before any forensic excavation is contemplated.
Think carefully when you secure your scene. Keep in mind that it is always better to secure a larger area than you need.
One of the best techniques I know of to stay on track is to use a crime scene checklist.
As time goes on, more products and techniques are sure to come our way. Stay current with advances in the field, and then follow through. Try out the materials and techniques before you get to the scene. Figure out what works best for you and your department, and put those items in your crime scene kit.
Even in today’s brave new world of ultra-sophisticated, high-tech imaging, a significant number of forensic images are still shot in visible light, and that’s why the latest optical filters as well as some tried-and-true classics can be extremely useful in enhancing forensic images and adding to their evidentiary value.
To position a camera for impression evidence photography, place it on a tripod, position the focal plane parallel to the impression, and ensure the camera is at a sufficient distance from the impression to avoid using a wide angle.
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. When you’re in a tough situation, try to find your own tool of the trade.
This graphic provides a quick review of crime scene basics at a glance.
CSOs have many options for lighting. Most important, you want the scene as bright as day.
Recent research has shown how forensic mycology can aid investigators by connecting a victim and suspect, determining a location, helping define cause of death, deducing interval since death, and discovering whether a body has been moved.
This technique can be used on samples taken from guns, steering wheels, cell phones, glass, plastic, wood, cloth, fabric, etc.
Crime scene investigators should resist the urge to rush the process because someone is asking them how long they will be.
The valuable information available through forensic entomology will go by the wayside if you don’t know what to collect or how to go about collecting it.
Having the proper supplies on the scene, and the knowledge to use them, is critical to the collection of usable Touch DNA samples.