What does a Crime Scene Investigator do?
Crime scene investigation merges science with the law. A crime scene investigator might need to have a thorough knowledge of scientific observation and methods, as well as knowledge of state and federal laws regarding evidence.
A crime scene investigator will be called upon to evaluate the evidence at the scene of homicides, sexual crimes, robberies and burglaries, and home invasions, among other crimes. A CSI can be called upon on any day and at any hour; because immediacy is vital to the preservation of a crime scene, they must be capable of working with minute details at all times.
Investigators may or may not be forensic scientists, as well. If qualified in forensic science, the CSI may perform some of the follow-up laboratory evaluation away from the crime scene - assessment of hair, fibers, drugs, body fluids, firearms, and fingerprints. Whether a CSI is a forensic scientist or not, he still needs an in-depth knowledge of how forensic science works in order to properly preserve laboratory evidence as it is collected at the crime scene.
Crime scene investigators are responsible for systematically processing a crime scene by:
- Securing the scene
- Reconstructing events
- Preserving, collecting, and packaging evidence
- Photographing and/or creating video of the scene
- Drawing sketches and diagrams
- Maintaining evidence logs, photography logs, and other tracking data
- Writing detailed reports about evidentiary findings
- Attending and photographing autopsies
- Using an array of scientific equipment to collect and analyze evidence
- Testifying in court with regard to evidence collected
A crime scene investigator does not offer opinions, only scientific data. He utilizes a four-step process to accomplish this:
During the evaluation stage, the CSI assesses the overall scene during a preliminary walk-through to determine the best plan for processing it without destroying evidence. Because each crime scene is different, the investigator needs to be able to quickly organize observations and develop a plan.
At the documentation stage, the CSI takes extensive photographs: wide-view pictures to depict the entire scene, mid-view pictures to show evidence in context, and close-up pictures to show details of evidence. Videos may be taken; sketches and diagrams are drawn.
In the collection stage, laboratory evidence is carefully handled, secured in proper storage containers, and documented in logs to preserve the chain of evidence for trial. Everything from simple tools, such as tweezers, to sophisticated scientific methods, such as luminol, may be used.
At the analysis stage, the collected evidence is thoroughly evaluated in the lab. If the CSI is also a forensic scientist, he participates in this process.
Crime scene investigators work toward several goals:
- Identification of the perpetrator of the crime
- Identification of the victim of the crime (if unknown)
- Reconstruction of the crime
- Conviction of the perpetrator
A crime scene investigator does not interview witnesses, pursue the suspect, or conduct interrogations. They do accurately document every significant detail of the crime to assist the district attorney in developing a court case that will stand up to attack by the defense attorney. They work in conjunction with the detectives, providing data that assists the detectives in identifying the perpetrator. They also testify during the trial about the evidence and its collection.
The job of a crime scene investigator is highly-specialized and requires up-to-date knowledge of science and the law. It is an often gruesome, but extremely important job. Without it, many criminals might never be identified.
Schools Offering Criminal Investigation Courses:
At Kaplan University, we offer over 180 degree and certificate programs.
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice : Crime Scene Investigation
For over 35 years, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals.
- Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology
Join the community of thought leaders at University of the Rockies. Pursue your graduate degree from the University’s School of Professional Psychology or School of Organizational Leadership.
- MA in Psychology, Criminology and Justice Studies
San Joaquin Valley College - A Private Junior College.
- Degree - Criminal Justice: Corrections
- Criminal Justice Administration Bachelor Degree
We Change Lives...One Person At A Time. ®
- Criminal Justice Administration, Bachelor Degree
- BS Criminal Justice - Human Services
Founded by the Society of Jesus in 1851, Saint Joseph's University (SJU) has been developing the minds and abilities of men and women in a challenging academic environment steeped in the enriching Jesuit tradition of cura personalis (care of the entire person).
- MS in Criminal Justice - Intelligence & Crime Analysis Concentration
You can get started on a new career with Institute of Technology.
For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit our website at www.iot.edu/disclosure
- Criminology and Emergency Response Management
Colorado State University-Global Campus
Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global) recently received state approval to enroll students with little to no prior college experience. To help ensure student success, the university has created a program especially for these students who plan on starting their college experience for the first time with us.
- Master - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration