24 May 2013

Focus on... Crime Scene Investigation - everyone wants to be a CSI

Mark Walsh | Principal CSI

Hi all,

I’ll start with a little info about myself if I may. I’ve been a CSI since 1991 and since then I’ve progressed to become a Principal Investigator. While it is still a technical role, I also help
with the management of the CSI function to make sure it runs efficiently.

All the work we do, meticulously covering scenes to find evidence, would be wasted if there were no forensic scientists available to examine it. A large part of my role over the last two years has been working to secure new providers to carry out this work for us. It is yet another myth that police forces have scientists in a basement lab waiting to be passed evidence from CSIs (as seen on TV). In fact most is carried out by specialist external companies. By reviewing our providers we have been able to save millions of pounds whilst maintaining the high standards required. 

Recruitment into the team also forms a large part of my role. Everyone wants to be a CSI and I get numerous requests a week, sometimes a day, from people who are interested. The job is not always what people expect – TV doesn’t help this either - and with the shift patterns and distressing crime scenes, a lot of people decide it isn’t for them. 

In this job you cannot predict what will happen next. One minute you could be attending a theft from a vehicle and the next you may have to go to a harrowing scene and end up working long hours on a serious investigation. 

To prepare our investigators for what’s involved; all our staff undertake a comprehensive training programme to make sure they fully understand the role before they go out into the field.

Richard Hunt | CSI Trainer
Hi, I’m a trainer here at the Kent Police Training School, where the majority of both our theory and practical sessions are held. We have a purpose built ‘street scene’ containing a Post Office, Estate Agents, pub and houses. They are all set up in the same way as real businesses which really helps our budding CSIs get to grips with scenes that they will attend when they’re in post. The ‘street scene’ gives us the opportunity to create complex scenarios across multiple locations as well. 

We also have a few disused vehicles that we plant evidence in and grassy areas that our CSIs recruits can cordon off and split into sections so they can hone their searching skills.

When recruiting, the trend is to generally source candidates who have already obtained a forensic science degree. With their wealth of theoretical knowledge, our job is to help them convert it into the practical skills required to effectively examine a crime scene. 

In contrast, some of our applicants are already in the policing family and can bring skills and attributes from their previous roles such as excellent communication as well as good recording and searching skills. Their grasp of police speak and procedures can often be a great help too.

Either way our trainers are here to make sure all recruits successfully pass the training programme and have all the skills and determination they need to become a great Crime Scene Investigator.

The long and often unsociable hours do not suit all, but the rewards and the sense of justification I get when an offender is jailed due to evidence I’ve collected is why I return every day and the reason I love my job.  

That’s all for today, tomorrow we’ll let you know about some of the ways we collect evidence, how you can help if you ever find yourself a victim of burglary and talk more about our work with colleagues in the Cold Case Investigation team.

Thanks for reading,

Mark & Richard