Crime Scene Investigator Responsibilities, Career, Education and Training Information

Common Activities and Responsibilities of Crime Scene Investigators

Crime scene investigator (CSI) responsibilities include the supervision, evaluation, investigation, and analyzation of complex crime scene investigations. They use state-of-the-art tools and techniques to secure, cultivate, collect physical evidence and suspect descriptions. Investigators create reports about observations and investigative efforts at crime scenes. These reports are then forwarded to law enforcement agencies. Crime scene investigators may be called to testify in court as experts.

What Does a CSI Do?

Crime scene investigators inspect crime scenes where invasions, sexual assaults, murders, armed robberies, and burglaries have occurred. Investigators spend about 70 percent of their time packaging and processing physical evidence, photographing autopsies, and briefing law enforcement agencies. Investigators spend the remainder of their time preparing reports, teaching classes, and testifying in court.

Crime Scene Investigator Job Requirements

Crime Scene Investigators typically work a standard 40 hour work week, although this may include night shifts, weekends and public holidays. Investigators are quite often part of a rotation that must be available or on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. CSI personnel are frequently called out in emergencies, so they must be available by pager or phone at all times.

Crime investigators should be in decent physical shape since they might have to kneel for long periods of time and carry heavy objects. Dexterity and physical strength are frequently essential for optimal job performance. Crime scene investigators are required to carry guns which they may have to use in a law enforcement situation. Please note, CSI works both indoors and outdoors.

Potential crime scene investigators must demonstrate police investigative abilities, be knowledgeable about search and seizure procedures, and understand an investigator's role during a crime scene investigation. Investigators must also understand their department's policies and procedures and local and state laws applicable to their job. Investigators must have a thorough knowledge of chemistry, anatomy, general science, and forensics. Investigators must be authorized to carry a firearm, have the authority to arrest suspects, and hold a valid driver's license.

Investigators need to travel to and from crime scenes, so a driving license is usually an essential requirement of the job. They are frequently required to live within a set distance of the main office where they work.

Crime scene investigators must be methodical and very patient. They must pay meticulous attention to detail and never be hasty, even if under a lot of pressure. Sometimes crime scene investigators must be firm and capable of explaining to others (i.e. crime victims, law enforcement officers, etc.) that they can’t work more quickly. Investigators must also have exceptional listening and interviewing skills in order to acquire detailed descriptions of suspects.

Crime Scene Investigator Duties

Crime Scene Investigators are responsible for the initial evaluation of the scene. Most of their work is comprised of taking photographs of the crime scene, forensic examination, fingerprinting and the collection of evidence such as fibers, hair, blood and paint samples. In completing their responsibilities as crime scene investigators, they undertake the following duties and activities both prior to and following the examination:

  • Assess the crime scene
  • Prepare diagrams and sketches
  • Take measurements
  • Take photographs of the crime scene
  • Write descriptions of the formal collection techniques
  • Package and transfer evidence
  • Maintain technical equipment
  • View and photograph autopsies
  • Summarize interpretation of evidence
  • Provide expert testimony in a court of law
  • Enter, analyze and retrieve data on a computer.
  • Verify the accuracy of entered data
  • Prepare investigative reports
  • Update records when necessary
  • Utilize the criminal information database
  • Use word processing and spreadsheet software
  • Participate in briefings and conferences with police and law enforcement agencies
  • Take continuing education course to continually update their skills
  • Teach crime scene investigation classes

Crime Scene Investigator Education Requirements

The most applicable educational background for a CSI is a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science.   Alternatively, earning a four year degree in a major with extensive study in both scientific subjects and criminal justice will build a solid foundation for a career in crime scene investigation.

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