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Research paper topic: Forensic Science: Proper Crime Scene Techniques - 1612 words
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Forensic Science: Proper Crime Scene Techniques. The word "Forensic" is derived from the Latin forensus, meaning "of the forum."1 In ancient Rome, the forum was where governmental debates were held, but it was also where trials were held -- the court house. From that, forensic science has come to mean the application of the natural and physical science to the resolution of matters within a legal context2. Forensic Science can be viewed as a tripartite structure consisting of 1. Collection: which pertains to the science investigation, 2. Examination: which pertains to the medical investigation and 3. Presentation: which pertains to the courts.
A forensic case will involve all aspects of each of the three structured elements, each being as important as the other. It is obvious that there needs to be a collaborative approach for the successful completion of each case. Each step in forensic science must be done in an exact order, therefor it can be assured that the investigation can have few doubts about what is being debated. In this paper I will focus my attention on the first aspect of the three step structure, Collections and Scientific Investigation. I will show what should be done at crimes scenes, how crime scenes should be handled and what steps must be followed to ensure that all evidence is pure as when the crime was committed.
The purpose of crime scene investigation is to help establish what happened at the crime and to identify the responsible person(s). This is done by carefully documenting the condition at a crime scene and recognizing all relevant physical evidence. The ability to recognize and properly collect physical evidence is often times critical to both solving and prosecuting violent crimes. It is no exaggeration to say that in the majority of cases, the law enforcement officer who protects and searches a crime scene plays a critical role in determining whether physical evidence will be used in solving or prosecuting violent crimes. In a personal interview, Lt.
Micheal Hritz of the Edison Township Police Department explained, "An investigator must not leap to an immediate conclusion as to what happened based upon limited information, but must generate several different theories of the crime, keeping the ones that are not eliminated by incoming information at the scene. The crime scene is the only link between the crime and its victim, if any or all evidence is destroyed or lost, the crime may never be solved. It is imparative that the officer know what, how and where to look for key evidence." Documenting and Examining a Crime Scene Documenting a crime scene and its conditions can include immediately recording transient details such as lighting, furniture, fingerprints, and other valuable information. Certain evidence if not collected immediately can easily be lost, destroyed or tainted. The scope of investigations can also extend to the fact of argument in such cases as suicide or self defense.
It is also important to be able to recognize what should be present at a crime scene, what to look for at a crime scene and what might appear out of place. A crime scene often does not pertain to the immediate area in which a victim or actual crime has occurred, but the possibility of escape or access routes should also be checked. Anything which can be used to connect a victim to a suspect or a suspect to a victim or a crime scene is relevent physical evidence. Richard Saferstein explains, "Physical evidence encompasses any and all objects that can establish that a crime has been committed or can provide a link between a crime scene and its victim or a crime and its perpetrator" (31). I will now explain the proper techniques and ways a crime scene and physical evidence should be handled and examined.
One of the first things an officer should do once he approaches a crime scene is to take control and secure the scene as quickly as possible. This is to prevent anyone from tainting evidence and to keep unauthorized person(s) out of the area such as the press, the public or anyone who doesn't belong. While this is being done, an officer should also be alert for discarded evidence and note if there are any possible approach or escape routes. After an officer does this, he should determine the extent in which the scene has been protected and make sure there is adequate security in the area. All persons entering and exiting the crime scene should be logged and kept down to a bare minimum to ensure the purity of the crime scene when the case goes to court.
Each person involved in the crime scene should have knowledge relative to its original conditions to prevent from accidental movement of objects, evidence or anything which might hurt in the investigation of the crime. When all of this is done, the next step which can occur is the actual examination of the crime scene. The examination of the crime scene will usually begin with a walk through of the area along the trial of the crime. The trail is that area which all apparent actions associated with a crime took place. It is also sometimes marked by the presence of physical evidence, this may include the point of entry, the location of the crime, areas where a suspect may have cleaned up and the point of exit.
The purpose of the walk through is to note the location of potential evidence and to mentally outline how the scene will be physically examined. The first place investigators should look is the ground they walk on. This is to prevent any evidence from being destroyed and if observed should be marked and warned to others not to step in that area. As the walk through occurs, the investigators should make sure their hands are occupied and they don't touch anything. The best way to prevent from touching anything is to keep your hands in your pockets. Once the walk through has been completed, the scene should be documented with videotape, photographs and sketches.
Any or all objects can provide a link between a crime and its victim/suspect, therefor it is imperative that the crime scene be well photographed and recorded. Recording a Crime Scene. One of the first steps in documenting and recording a crime is videotape. Videotapes can provide a perspective on the crime scene layout which cannot be as easily perceived in photographs and sketches. The condition of the scene should remain unaltered with the exception of markers placed by investigators to show small things which might not be seen such as bullets, blood stains or other key pieces of evidence. A key in videotaping is slow movement through out the scene and should be done so from beginning to end. It is also wise to pan an area twice in order to prevent unnecessary rewinding of the tape when viewing and to make sure the taper has captured everything.
Taping should begin with the general outline of the scene and surrounding area. Taping should continue throughout the scene using different angles, close-ups, and still shots for a few seconds. Once video taping has concluded it is then best to also capture the crime scene with still photography. Regardless if a scene has been videotaped, still photographs are a must at every crime scene. Although videotaping does record everything, photographs can demonstrate certain things such as direct comparison.
Actual size photographs can be used to compare fingerprint and shoe prints photographed at the scene against the suspect. Again, when photographing, the outer part of the scene should be taking first to show the surrounding areas, then towards the crime scene itself. Wide angle photos should be used of the crime scene and surrounding areas. A good technique to use when shooting rooms is to shoot from many possible angles such as from all four corners, from a doorway or from a window. When close-ups are required of key pieces of evidence, a ruler should be photographed with the items where relative size is important.
While each photograph is being taken, a person should also be taking notes on what the person is shooting, in order at a later date to understand what was trying to be accomplished. After still photography has be taken, the final step in recording a crime scene is to sketch and draw the scene out by hand. The final phase in recording is to sketch the crime scene. While photographs are two-dimensional and often can distort distance and size, sketches provide the means of showing distance or objects, and a over-head view of the area and surroundings. A sketch is usually made of the scene as if one is looking straight down or straight ahead. Measurements should be taken at crime scene of distances between two objects, room measurements and key pieces of evidence. Two measurements should be taken at right angles to each other from two reference points. Each measurement should be double measured to make sure they are correct and accurate.
A final sketch can be made by a professional using all the measurements and notes taken by the investigators. However, the original sketches should not be thrown out but saved along with other key evidence in case a discrepancy occurs or something was missed. Once the crime scene has been recorded with videotaping, still photography and sketches, gathering of evidence can occur. Searching for and Gathering Evidence at Crime Scenes. Gathering and locating physical evidence is a very slow a tedious job when done correctly, however, it can yield many clues.
One of the first things an investigator must determine is the size and area ...
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