Sunday, March 24, 2013

Forensic Science 101

Yes, I am studying forensic science. No, you don't understand what I do. Crime Scene Shows that are so popular over the past few years have greatly misled the public about what, those of the criminal justice system, do.

            A man is found dead with a bullet wound in his chest. Who did it? Since there is blood spatter, a gun, and tire depressions at the scene this question is best left for the forensics and investigators. At this stage many people become confused on proper procedures. Many believe that the scene will be investigated by six people, who will collect the evidence, process the evidence at a lab, question the suspects, and arrest the bad guys all in the space of about an hour. I am so sorry to disappoint everyone out there that believes this to be true because it’s not.  Contrary to what many people believe the processing and handling of evidence, the appearance and workings of a corpse, and how forensic evidence is applied to the criminal justice system in order to catch criminals, is not a quick six person job. 

1. We have one job. We do not work with guns one minute, blood the next, and then cut up a body.

The processing and handling of scenes and data fall onto the shoulders of a broad group of forensic scientists. First there are those who process and handle a scene, these scientists are known as Crime Scene Investigators(CSI's). They are responsible for collecting and documenting evidence at crime scenes. Collecting this data isn’t always easy. These scientists are the first to the scene, and CSIs see everything. These scientists have to get into the gore at crime scene to collect evidence without destroying the evidence in the process, or losing their lunch for that matter. CSIs collect blood, fingerprints, fibers, and objects connected to crimes that need to be analyzed. Everything that is taken from a scene must be documented, including where it was found, what it is or looks like, and the objects distance from the body or another main stationary object. Everything at a scene will be photographed at least three different times. There can be over a thousand photographs for one crime scene. Depending on what evidence was found, the evidence will then go to a specific scientist to be processed for further analysis. Blood will go to DNA analysts and toxicologists, the DNA analysts will test for DNA matches, while the toxicologists will look for drugs or other abnormal properties in the blood. Fingerprints will go to, big surprise here; fingerprint analysts. These analysts will remove fingerprints from objects, run fingerprints through the system, and compare prints. If a firearm is involved the firearm will go to firearm analysts. These firearm specialists can tell what kind of firearm that was used, where the firearm was bought, where a person was standing when they shot the firearm, and who or what the shooter was aiming for. These are just some of the things and some of the forensic scientists involved in processing data from a crime scene, and as this shows forensics is no, tight nit, six man team. There may be six people in every category involved. Unlike television show processing data in real life takes a lot longer than an hour. Getting this data can take weeks, even months. This is because the test can be very long, and because there is so much evidence to process, due to the large number of scenes and back log.

2. We do not carry a gun as part of our jobs.
3. We are scientists, not a negotiators nor interrogators.
4. My ability to make an arrest is the same as yours; a citizens arrest.
5. Tests take days/weeks/months not minutes.
6. I wish some of the machines that they use were real, unforgettably they are not.
7. Tests offer statistics, not certainty.

I could go on and on, but I will not. But, the next times some one informs you that they are a forensic scientist think twice before saying, "Oh, so your like one of those guys on "CSI" right?" .............. -.- "no"..