Crime Scene Investigator Job Description
Roles, Responsibilites, Job Duties & Protocol in CSI
Crime scene investigators have the important job of securing and examining the details left at the scene of a crime. The job involves sorting through the minute details so that prosecutors can build a compelling case and find the perpetrator of the crime beyond a shadow of a doubt. Activities and protocols must be carried out in a precise and organized manner such as identifying the time of death in a homicide, lifting fingerprints, collecting and documenting trace evidence such as hair or fibers, examining firearms or explosive devices and documenting the placement of objects and bodies. It is no secret that the job is not for the faint at heart; however, for those with the right mental disposition, the job can be highly stimulating and rewarding.
Crime Scene Investigation Roles, Responsibilities & Protocols
Am I Right for a Crime Scene Investigator Job?
As a crime scene investigator, you must be willing to work in an environment with tight protocol and often for long hours in a variety of crime scenes ranging from the moderate to intense and graphic. An ability to work in the wake of graphic and sometimes violent scenes, including cases involving serial killers is a must. For those whose mental dispositions and attitudes about the job of evidence collection and justice is one of a balanced nature, a job as a CSI could be a true calling. As a crime scene investigator, you must be prepared to hunker down, squeeze into tight spaces and sometimes lift heavy objects in the name of evidence collection.
"The sense of fulfillment from being able to play such a central role in solving crimes and contributing to justice is often cited as a driver of motivation and passion for the job."
Despite some of challenges, most tenured crime scene investigators are happy with their jobs even in its sometimes un-Hollywood like nature. The sense of fulfillment from being able to play such a central role in solving crimes and contributing to justice is often cited as a driver of motivation and passion for the job. Without a doubt, there are days when the job can be highly exhilarating and fascinating. If you enjoy putting together puzzles, have an eye for detail, and enjoy the prospects of using state of the art equipment and technology in the name of justice, read on.
Primary Job Duties of a Crime Scene Investigator
- Assists in the comparison and classification of fingerprints obtained according to files.
- Assists in the development of film and photographs taken relative to both ID processing and crime scene investigations.
- Assists in searching crime scenes, collecting, packaging, preserving and processing trace evidence, footprint casts and related items of information.
- As assigned, performs photography work.
- Calls in ballistics, trace evidence experts.
- May need to analyze bullet entrance angles, blood spatter, and perform precise measurements on the crime scene.
- May be assigned to attend available courses in advanced ID procedures.
A Day in the Job of a Crime Scene Investigator
The actual work on the crime scene begins when the crime scene investigator is called upon to process and comb a crime scene for evidence. To get a better grasp of what evidence gathering measures they need to take, the crime scene investigator does a walk-through around the area. Then, pictures are taken of the crime scene, sketches are drawn, and video footage is often taken for documentation purposes.
The crime scene investigator proceeds to evidence collection, utilizing different tools to uncover evidence; both those easily seen and those that are hidden to the eyes. The crime scene technician may have to lift fingerprints, tool marks, and shoe or tire impressions. The CSI also collects blood, semen and other bodily fluids present on the crime scene. He or she must also be on the lookout for gunshot residues, fibers, glass fragments and other things that can help in shedding light on the crime committed. The crime scene investigator must always be careful, systematic and thorough in gathering evidence.
All evidence collected from the scene will be sent to the lab for processing. Many crime scene technicians process the evidence themselves before turning them in to the lead detective for the case; but ideally, a field CSI investigator will turn over the pieces of evidence to forensics scientists for processing. Other technical aspects of the job include maintaining lab equipment and organizing a storage room for evidence. The CSI will also have to make detailed crime reports. You may also need to attend police briefings and may be summoned by courts to testify.
"A CSI must have a sharp, curious, and analytical mind to find inconspicuous evidence, and a willingness to continually adapt to new technologies "
A CSI must have a sharp, curious, and analytical mind to find inconspicuous evidence, and a willingness to continually adapt to new technologies and attend skill-enhancing training. In many ways, a CSI in the real world may not be too far from a character in a CSI TV show. Both must exert every effort on the job for the sake of one thing only: the evidence. As the CSI: Las Vegas' former lead character, Gil Grissom said, "Concentrate on what cannot lie. The evidence." To learn more about the various types of crime scenes and criminals, check out our criminal minds article series to get an in-depth look.
CSI Work Schedules & Working Hours
It is not uncommon for crime scene investigators to extend their working hours when law enforcement calls to request a crime scene investigation. Being on-call and flexible is important; however, crime scene investigators often have days of the week when they are designated "off the grid" and many employers, including law enforcement agencies and private employers, often provide robust benefits packages, including a healthy amount of vacation, sick leave, and extremely generous retirement plans and pensions. Crime scene investigator salary varies depending upon several factors including the role you play, your level of education and expertise, the geographic region you work in, whether you work for a government agency or a private one, and your experience.
Working Together: The Various Roles & Jobs in CSI
First Responders - Police, EMT, Paramedics
- Arrive first to respond to medical treatment needs
- Learn more about police officer training.
- Questions witnesses at the scene of the crime and handles all facets of the investigation.
- Collects trace evidence such as hairs, fibers, blood, shoe prints, tire marks, etc.
- Depending upon type of crime, a may be in charge of ballistics, fingerprints, or blood placement and splatter
- Learn more about criminalistics degree options.
Crime Scene Photographer
- Crime Scene Photographer takes photographs of crime scene including bodies, evidence, and any details providing clues
- An Evidence Technician collects, receives, examines, and stores criminal evidence or property for investigations. CSI & Evidence Technicians work all physical evidence, impression evidence, and finger print evidence.
- Examines the body once it arrives at the morgue
Toxicologist / Coroner / Autopsy Photographer
- Analyzes bodily fluids. Coroner determines official cause of death.
- Once trace evidence arrives, forensics scientists perform a variety of tests, extracting DNA, or examining evidence for specific clues.
- Analyzes motives, criminal activity patterns, suggests additional forensic testing, and attempts to create a profile of the offender. See also, forensic psychology careers.
- Analyzes causes and motives behind arson and fires. See fire science programs for more information.
Document & Signature Examiner
- Analyzes documents for alterations, handwriting comparisons. Learn more about certified fraud examiners.
Further Reading: CSI, Criminalist, Forensic Scientist: What's the Difference?