Crime Scene Investigators Careers

Scenes Of Crime Officers (SOCOs), or Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs), work with police in the investigation of serious crime. Usually they are civilians, although sometimes they may be police officers in uniform or plain clothes. The crimes can vary in seriousness from burglary and vehicle crime, to murder and rape.

Crime Scene Investigators are among the first to arrive at a crime scene, for they must look for, retrieve, record and investigate finger and palm prints and other forensic evidence, including DNA samples, at crime scenes and from recovered stolen property. They then use the appropriate methods to collect and preserve the evidence, no matter how difficult the circumstances. They also take photographs at the crime scenes to help in the later identification and conviction of the offenders. They also decide whether assistance from specialists, including forensic scientists, is needed.

Following a visit to a crime scene, the investigator must produce accurate written records and diagrams of where each item of evidence was located and the position in which it was found. They are responsible for maintaining and updating systems with details of recovered evidence. Sometimes, Crime Scene Investigators may need to interview victims of crime or to attend court in order to give evidence. They are often required to attend post mortems.

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Typical Activities

Crime Scene Investigators are accountable for the initial evaluation of the scene. Most of their work comprises photography, fingerprinting, forensic examination and the collection of evidence such as hair, fibres, blood and paint samples. They are accountable for the initial evaluation of the scene. In completing this duty, they undertake the following actions during and after the examination:

  • Assessing the crime scene.
  • Preparing sketches and diagrams.
  • Taking measurements.
  • Taking photographs.
  • Writing descriptions of the formal collection techniques.
  • Packaging and transferring evidence.
  • Summarising interpretation of evidence.
  • Viewing and photographing autopsies.
  • Presenting expert testimony in a court of law.
  • Entering, analysing and retrieving data on a computer.
  • Verifying accuracy of entered data.
  • Updating records where necessary.
  • Preparing investigative reports.
  • Utilising the criminal information database.
  • Using word processing and spreadsheet software.
  • Participating in conferences and briefings with police agencies.
  • Maintaining equipment.
  • Teaching classes.
  • Continuing their own education.

Would a Crime Scene Investigators Career Suit You?

Crime Investigation Officers usually work a standard 37-40 hour week, although this includes shifts, weekends and public holidays. They are frequently part of a rota that provides cover 24-hours a day, seven days a week. This means that they may be called out in emergencies, so must be available by phone or pager at all times in order to respond.

Officers work indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather. Due to the nature of the work, conditions can be very unpleasant and even dangerous. Physical strength and dexterity is frequently essential.

Officers need to travel to crime scenes, so a driving licence is usually essential. They may also be required to live within a certain distance of the main work place.

Scenes of crime officers must be patient and methodical. You need to pay meticulous attention to detail and never hurry, even if under pressure. Sometimes you need to be firm and able to explain that you can't work more quickly. You need to be able to communicate gently with crime victims, and have good interviewing and listening skills.

Most crime scene investigators work a regular 40-hour work week Monday through Friday. However, they must be willing to work standby duty, an after-hours shift normally every other week. In addition to standby duty, many crime scene investigators are required to respond to emergency calls 24 hours a day.

Salary and Prospects for Crime Scene Investigators Careers

Job requirements vary, but a bachelor's degree with criminal investigation courses included will definitely put you at an advantage with such a career. There are also opportunities for short courses once in post.

Police forces employ different numbers of Crime Scene Investigation Officers. There are prospects of further promotion to Chief Officer or similar.

Outside the police services, the skills and knowledge gained through a relevant degree can be applied in a wide range of areas, including Customs, Environment Protection, Accidental Investigation, Drug Research, the Chemical Industry and Biomedical Sciences.

How to Improve Your Crime Scene Investigator Career Opportunities

To get a career as a Crime Scene Investigator, you'll need to create a CV that demonstrates that you have all the capabilities need to become a CSI.

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