Crime Scene Investigation
Assignment #1: Preservation of Physical Evidence
Assignment #1: Preservation of Physical Evidence
A crime scene is an area where an unlawful act has taken place and from which evidence must be collected by law enforcement officers. A crime scene can be described as synonymous to a puzzle. However, while in the case of a puzzle the investigator has all the pieces and merely has to put them together, in the case of a crime scene he must search extensively to find all the right pieces. In many cases, the investigator finds more pieces than needed and must therefore decide which the right pieces are. Some of the areas the pieces may be found include victims, witnesses, complainants, suspects, the crime scene, and document archives. Often, these sources may knowingly or un-knowingly give or hide these pieces. For example, a criminal may attempt to lead the investigators away from the evidence and even attempt to point it towards someone else. On the other hand, some witnesses may be useful in clarifying certain patterns that may be crucial to the investigation. While for them they are merely listing their daily activities, for the investigator the pieces are being collected. In some cases still, the investigator is unfortunate and does not find all the pieces to the puzzle.
The purpose of the whole process is to find the evidence to prove or disprove an offense whereupon the evidence is then used in a court of law to serve justice. Every case has a different approach for example with the nature of the investigation, which can be either by complaint or by intelligence driven. Complaints may come from two sources, which are either the victim or other investigative authorities that do not deal with the specific crime. Intelligence driven investigations are often without victims and require the investigator to use his intuition with the assistance of various witnesses and evidence. Finally as an investigator, with the sole goal of solving a crime through finding the truth, one must be objective. An objective investigator is guided by the facts and not the other way around.
A crime scene is an area restricted by the relevant authorities for example, the FBI, depending on the type of crime and weapons used. A crime scene search is a process planned, coordinated and executed by law enforcement officials in search of physical evidence. Crimes occur in both private and public places for example in homes, on roads and even on the streets. The first step for officers at a crime scene would be to obtain a search warrant. However, when it occurs in public places, an officer is not bound by such a requirement. In other cases such as in a home, an officer may enter with the consent of the owners. In yet another case, they are permitted to enter the premises when the crime puts other lives in danger for example, where there is a shooting, where the life of an elderly person is feared to be in danger, a fire or an explosion may have occurred. Secondly, it occurs in cases where non-violent crimes are suspected such as in areas famous for drug abuse and other such instances.
Crime Scene search principles go on to state what officers can look for in various crime scenes, when they can search them and for how long. This is all reliant on what type of warrant has been obtained for the particular crime scene (Gardner & Anderson, 2009). Police officers are also required to receive training on what kind of evidence they can expect to find from a crime scene and the appropriate methods of handling various types of evidence (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2008). They should also be prepared with various evidence collecting and packaging materials and equipment. The investigating officers should be provided with certain basic amenities such as protective clothing, communication, lighting, medical aid, rest-room facilities among others. It is also important to ensure the investigative activities are in line with the abilities, training, and experience of the officers.
It is finally up to the team leader to ensure the safety of his team during crime scene investigations. He is also responsible for ensuring an administrative log of items and members of the team and activities are performed. This is for record keeping and to account for evidence and other items. It also requires that statements made by witnesses to be recorded for future reference. In addition to the team are various specialists including a photographer to take pictures and log evidence in the scene. A sketch preparer makes sketches while an evidence recorder is responsible for keeping all evidence and making a log of it. The evidence recovery personnel ensures a photo and sketch documentation of evidence found as well as initializing and dating the evidence. Specialists are also brought in with regards to the areas in accordance with the crime. Finally, unauthorized personnel should not be allowed into the premises and a log should be kept of everyone who enters and leaves the site.
From the above procedure, training and experience lead to seasoned investigators. Such investigators on walking into a crime scene have some idea of where evidence is likely to be. They are also aware of the rules and regulations associated with types of evidence and handling of such evidence. This issue must be strictly adhered to because wrongful tagging and storage of evidence can lead to its dismissal thereby discrediting what may have been a strong case. All searches must therefore be lawful and all evidence legally and correctly seized. In conclusion, crime scene search principles represent the systematic approach to a crime scene from entry, evidence detection, collection and preservation. It also represents the team involved in the investigation as well as specialists that would be required and at what stages concerning the specifics of a crime. When the facts add up, the investigator must build a case and present it to the relevant authority who is the prosecutor in this case. However, if they do not add up, he must document it and close the case but should never influence the evidence in any way.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2008). FBI Handbook of Crime Scene Forensics. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
Gardner, T. J., & Anderson, T. M. (2009). Criminal Evidence: Principles and Cases. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Lee, H. C., Palmbach, T., & Miller M. T. (2001). Henry Lee’s Crime Scene Handbook. Camp Hill, PA: Academic Press.