I run into the question "how do I become a crime scene investigator" quite often and I'm not sure that the information I provide is the complete picture. In the region of the US where I work, police officers are either promoted or appointed into evidence technician postions. Some of the larger state run agencies may hire civillian employees and then have them attend a police academy but those opportunities are few and far between.
My agency has a number of investigators who are very specialized in their training and evidence collection and we have a laboratory that does detailed examinations of our evidence.
My question is, aside from the television world, are people walking out of college and walking into evidence technician roles in other parts of the US? I imagine that some very large cities have this occur, but are most of the crime scene investigators coming from the role of a police officer first?
At the local department that I worked at, a number of interns were crushed to learn that in order to do crime scene work at that department, you had to promote from the position of patrol officer. They had no interest in being the police, only the crime scene work. In an agency of nearly ninety sworn officers, 2 evidence technician officers were employed. There was intense competition for a small number of positions.
I teach crime scene investigations at a university in Southern California. I can tell you that there are many agencies in California (and in a lot of other states including Texas, Arizona, Florida, etc.) that do hire civilians for CSI and Evidence Technician positions. Many of my students have gotten the jobs and they do not have to be police officers first to do so. In California after they are hired they usually go to a two week basic Crime Scene Technician Course and then have on-the-job training. Of course this varies from agency to agency. Usually (but not always) the smaller agencies train a Detective (sworn officer) to do the evidence technician and property room tasks as collateral duties. But it seems more and more agencies are finding the advantages of using non-sworn for evidence technician and forensic positions.
You can actually see many agencies are recruiting for non-sworn evidence technician and forensic positions by reading through the job opening announcements and job descriptions on the employment page of this website.
Dave Hammond wrote
....My question is, aside from the television world, are people walking out of college and walking into evidence technician roles in other parts of the US? I imagine that some very large cities have this occur, but are most of the crime scene investigators coming from the role of a police officer first?
Thanks for the reply. I work in Ohio, where it still a sworn officer driven type of system. This is good information to have and it will help me when talking with college students that have majors in forensic science with the hopes of working in the field.
Dave, I was one of the 1st civilian Crime Scene Technicians hired in NY state in 1982. I have been with the Rochester NY PD since then. I plan on retiring in a few months w/ 29 yrs. of service. My unit currently is 15 technicans, spread over 3 shifts. The make up currently is 8 civilian techs. & 7 Police Officer Techs.. Our boss is a Police Sgt.. We (the civilian techs.) just recently got a 4 on/2 off work wheel, which the officers have had for years. Better than the 4/2, 4/2, 5/2, we had for the majority of my career. We at one time in the mid 80's were 75/25, civilians to officers. We had a high turn over, and eventually went to a 75/25, officer to civilian ratio. A few years ago, we started hiring civilians again, with the current 50/50 ratio. I've worked w/both, and find no difference, other than the officers are paid better. I have no complaints, I made my choice long ago, and have had a great career. Now it's time to move on, to my next careeer. I'm still figuring out what that will be.
Good information to know. I think that we all get peppered with the questions of how do I become a crime scene investigator. It's kind of a difficult field to break into and people often travel different roads to get here. I appreciate you posting a response.
Get sworn. It's making yourself more "marketable." Be valuable to your agency in many ways versus just limited ways. This is my 16th yr in LE and, although I'm a crime scene detective now, there's no taking from me aaaall the experience and knowledge I gained working "the road." plus... Many times, your salary is increased.
Crime scene technician is one of the most influential fields and is growing rapidly. The reason the smaller department are staying with sworn officers is because they complete with the salaries being offered as a non-sworn officer and because the smaller departments are afraid of change. They trust the way they have been doing things for years. The jobs I have been viewing the lowest minimum salary I have seen is roughly $38,000, which is a far cry from getting paid minimum wage at a job someone has worked while going through school. I don't think getting sworn in as an officer is going to get you a job quicker or be more respected. Sworn officers who are crime scene investigators are biased because they have done this job for so long...having non-biased technicians can help solve some crimes faster.
PLEASE understand the difference in a CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATOR and a Crime Scene TECHNICIAN. Because of the popularity of the TV Show, many agencies are dubbing the technician job as a CSI. To be an INVESTIGATOR by real terms, you must be a sworn officer. A technician is an evidence collector or when trained, a tester. That means the entire job is collecting evidence, as directed by a sworn officer, and putting it in bags, boxes, etc. and labeling and tracking it by record keeping. Investigators use their trained knowledge and experience from police work to investigate the evidence as it relates to the crime. When untrained personnel (civilians) make decisions regarding evidence and investigations, the liability is staggering. Cases may be compromised, rights may be violated, and lawsuits can be brought. There is not the same protection the officers have for good intent. This is why a technicians ability is limited.
No one seems to want to explain to hopefuls that the TV show is nothing like a technician's real job. No one becomes an expert in all the areas they show from identifying fingerprints to comparing fibers from different sources. No one has the technology available to them as shown on the TV series. You cannot become an investigator with a two week course and the academy is only a learners permit for law enforcement officers. If you would be happy getting up close and personal to digging through bodily fluids to pick up a piece of evidence and bag it, or spending 8 hours a day doing the same test over and over, this may be for you! Don't let the series romance you.
Yes, I did it for nearly 10 years, I am a sworn officer who did the whole investigation thing....SO GLAD TO BE OUT OF IT!! Daily showers to get rid of the nastiness and stench were not glamorous at all.
I was wondering if anyone knows any organizations/companies/police departments looking for an crime scene technician. I am currently graduating from RIT with a degree in Biomedical Photographic Communications with a minor in Criminal Justice. It has been my goal since high school to work in the forensic field and I am having a hard time locating places who are hiring. If anyone has any ideas where to look or if they know anyone who is looking to hire, I would greatly appreciate any help I can get.
Hi Tom you seem to be the person I need to speak to. I am looking to leave the nursing field after almost 22 years and I'm very interested in crimes scene work. I honestly do not want to be an officer either and now I know it can be done. What training/school did you attend? I'm really interested in hearing all that you have to say.
I live in Jacksonville Florida and here it is still Sworn Officer based I have an A.S. majoring in Crime Scene Technology and a B.S. majoring in Forensic investigations. I have interned with a forensic consultant and believe it or not the Public Defender's Office as an Investigations interviewer. I would love to be an actual investigator with them but those positions are reserved for retired police officers. I have recently been hired to do what I interned for but part time.
I am chiming in because (no offense to sworn) we were trained to be completely neutral when investigating a crime scene and collecting evidence. With me and my classmates and some of the Professors (retired from various agencies FBI, CIA, Local Police, Coroner etc..) correct me if I am wrong but, it seems like sworn officers are more bias to thinking they know what happened and what to collect. Our local police department is very large I heard 1100 officers and I have also been told they try to reserve the crime scene unit positions for the nearly retired or the officers with bad backs etc...., Another excuse I have heard for them not hiring civilians is because they do not thing Union workers would work well with non union workers (I mean really? How petty is that?)
On a positive note I have seen more and more agencies hiring civilians, especially good news because I am not a cop and I am not a hero that is the sworn guys jobs.
P.S. it cost about $100k tax dollars to train a sworn officer and a fraction of that to train a civilian especially since we have paid for a majority of our education on our own dime.
Hey there James,
I was wondering if you have heard anything more about civilian positions??
I have a BS in Biology & Criminal Justice and currently getting my Masters of Forensics in Criminalistics. I live in Maryland and there really aren't any civilian positions. I am actually looking to move to Jacksonville, FL, hoping there would be more opportunities but am a bit apprehensive
Hi I am new to this forum but I don't know what else to do. I have a Bachelor degree an AA in criminal justice, and working in corrections. My interest is in Crime scene and I don't not want to be a law enforcement office to be one so I am looking for help or some place to start. I research everyday but am so despondent not being successful so what am I doing wrong. HELP