Crime scene investigators are specialists within the law enforcement community who collect and analyze evidence from crime scenes. They examine tire tracks, footprints, blood samples, and many other elements of a crime scene in an attempt to provide an accurate picture of what occurred, the sequence of events, and when the events took place.
Crime scene investigators are more than evidence technicians, who gather and process crime scene evidence. Crime scene investigators are sworn police officers who are involved in every aspect of investigating crimes, and most work for large or state police departments, because smaller departments cannot afford the luxury of a crime scene investigator.
Education for Crime Scene Investigators
Most crime scene investigators begin their law enforcement careers as police officers. This is because crime scene investigator is not an entry-level position. It is a position that demands intuition and intellectual skills accumulated through education and experience. Therefore, candidates should check into the requirements for becoming a police officer in their geographical region. Police officers must meet educational, physical, and background requirements, followed by attendance at a police academy. More often than not, crime scene investigators hold a bachelor’s degree in science from an accredited college or university. Coursework in criminal justice and/or forensic science provides an advantage.
Previous law enforcement experience is a necessity for crime scene investigators. In addition, they need training in the proper techniques of collecting and processing forensic evidence. This means crime scene investigators undergo constant continuing education in science and technology.
What Does a Crime Scene Investigator Do?
Once at a crime scene, the investigator protects the scene from any outside contamination. The investigator then identifies, collects, and categorizes evidence from the crime scene, as well as takes photographs of the scene and each piece of evidence. Part of the crime scene investigator’s job is to ensure that collection techniques follow a precise methodology that cannot be faulted in court; improperly processed evidence may not be allowed by a judge.
The gathering of evidence at a crime scene involves bending, reaching, stooping, lifting, and other strenuous physical activity, and evidence is gathered under all types of conditions: inside and outside buildings, in water, heat, and the freezing cold, and in any type of weather. Another factor to consider is this: Crime scene investigators are called to examine gruesome crimes that may involve victims murdered in the most heinous manner imaginable. This is not a job for people with weak stomachs.
The employment outlook for crime scene investigators is average through 2015. Most crime scene investigators, because they are highly trained specialists, make excellent salaries: The average in most urban areas is $75,000 per year. However, advancement and promotion opportunities are not as good as those of other areas of law enforcement.