Crime Scene Investigation: Television vs. Real Life

Guest Posting by Remington College Professor Mark Rogers
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (pinball)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (pinball) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the best things about watching a crime scene investigation drama on television is that you know the bad guys will be in jail and all of your questions will be answered by the end of the hour. 

On TV, the investigators move seamlessly between the lab and the street, peering into microscopes and running to a crime scene, interrogating suspects, and then finding the one clue that breaks the case.  The only problem is that this is how it all happens on television. 

It’s fiction.  It’s imagination. Reality is different. 

Some differences between crime scene investigations on television and in real life
·         Analysis of evidence can take days or even weeks, not minutes. In fact, it may take a month to find out whose blood you collected from a crime scene.

·         Firearms examiners and medical examiners often don’t work the same schedule.  It might take several days before you can compare the gun you collected during a search of the crime scene with a bullet removed from the victim’s body. 

·         Fingerprints won’t be found at every crime scene. 

·         An abundance of evidence will not be at every crime scene just waiting to be collected.  In fact, if the crime scene is outdoors, the evidence may be washed away quickly. 

·         Foreign material won’t be under every victim’s fingernails.

·         Some questions are never answered, and some crimes are never solved. But as a crime scene investigator (CSI), you can’t give up.

There are generally two types of crime scene investigators, and both work with evidence: 
Crime Scene Tape
Crime Scene Tape (Photo credit: Null Value)
Police Officers or Deputies:  Many agencies require that their CSIs be full-time, law enforcement personnel: officers or deputies who are currently assigned to investigative functions. 

These CSIs may have experience in traffic, patrol, or narcotics divisions but are assigned crime scene responsibilities.  Their education can range from a high school diploma to some college, or successful completion of police academy training.

Formally Trained Civilians: A second type of CSI may be a person hired for the position who has not been through a police academy.

These CSIs typically hold degrees in a science or related field, and they’ve been put through a training regimen to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully process a crime scene.  These civilians may work for a law enforcement agency or a crime lab.
potd 4 17 12 - Forensic 497 final exam
potd 4 17 12 - Forensic 497 final exam (Photo credit: pennstatelive)

Whichever path one takes to investigate crime scenes, they often have to be dedicated and inventive; they have to persist even when no answers are forthcoming. 

Mark Rogers
Criminal Justice Instructor

About Mark Rogers:  Mr. Rogers is a full-time instructor in the Criminal Justice associate’s degree program at Remington College in Shreveport. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Louisiana State University in Shreveport, as well as certifications as a Latent Fingerprint Examiner and Senior Crime Scene Analyst from the International Association for Identification.  His experience in law enforcement spans 28 years, and he provides professional reviews of crime scenes and bloodstain patterns for the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office.

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