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The Essential Role of the Forensic Investigator

The popularity of shows such as CSI and N.C.I.S. and real trials such as the O.J. Simpson trial have brought forensic science to the forefront of the criminal justice system. Jurors want more than just eye-witness statements or officer accounts; jurors want evidence to substantiate the charges. As crime increases, society demand criminals apprehended, yet, they want fairness and accuracy in the investigation and subsequent verdicts in trials. Even though law enforcement agencies have implemented strategies to combat the increase in crime; agencies, attorneys, judges and jurors have turned their focus turn toward the forensic science community for support and assistance. The expert competence of the forensic or crime scene investigator in carrying out his or her duties is the essential element in both finding the truth and ensuring objectivity during the search for that truth. The forensic investigator portrays the expert competence by managing the crime scene and ensuring that evidence is properly documented and collected. The forensic investigator uses forensic applications in a careful and methodical manner to ensure that “the accurate and objective manner of information reflects the events that have occurred at a crime scene.” (Saferstein, 2004, p. 1) “Forensic science is the application of science to those criminal and civil laws that are enforced by police agencies in criminal justice systems.” (Saferstein. 2004 p.2) The idea of using the application of forensic science disciplines first came into existence with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Holmes caught the attention of the reader and the scientific community with his words, in A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887, “I’ve found it. I found it.” Holmes used different disciplines that opened up the imaginations of the forensic scientist and criminal investigator. There were numerous scientists that have contributed to the field of forensic science. Yet, it was Edmond Locard (1877-1966) who made the greatest contribution to the forensic community by creating the first police laboratory. He also implemented his theory known as Locard’s Exchange Principle which states when a criminal comes into contact with an object or person there is a cross-transfer of evidence. This belief is still being used in today’s criminal investigations.
Forensic investigators and police officers are responsible to adhering to all laws when performing their duties. The investigator and officer must “act as a law enforcement officer, our primary duty is to uphold the Constitution while safeguarding the lives and property of the public, who place their trust in us.” (LaForte, M. F. 2004 p. 1) Normally, the first person on a crime scene is the area’s beat officer. This officer can either help or hurt the success of the case by their initial actions. This officer needs to help maintain the integrity of the scene by establishing victims, witnesses, or suspects, establishing a perimeter, establishing elements of the crime, and calling for assistance from the proper investigators.
The forensic investigator must arrive at the scene with the proper attitude to conduct a thorough investigation. The forensic investigator job entails more than just arriving to take photographs and collect evidence. The forensic investigator must arrive with the proper attitude, an obligation to process each scene to the best of their ability, determination to remain focus and document the scene thoroughly, and objective without allowing any bias to interfere with the investigation. (LaForte, 2004)
As the forensic investigator arrives on the scene, he or she must make initial observations of the crime scene. There must be a determination of whether the scene is an outdoor scene, indoor scene, or both type scenes. Once a determination has been made, the investigator needs