Thursday, March 29, 2007

Civilian Police Academy - More on Class 5

What I'm reading: Alibi Man, by Tami Hoag

What I'm writing: Chapter 30

After fingerprints, we had a tour of the Crime Scene Lab. First -- the techs wear uniform polo shirts, black BDU pants and boots. No Armani, no heels, no low-cut shirts. There are 2 squads, 6 people each, plus 2 supervisors and 2 assistant supervisors. They work 4 10 hour days but are basically on call 24/7 and expected to be at any scene in the county in under an hour. The perk here is that they get to have official vehicles (no Hummers -- just mini-vans which are being phased out because they're too small) to take home.

We saw the imaging lab -- everything has to be documented photographically, so they're plenty busy. Then a tour of the lab where they look at things like blood spatter, the various chemicals they use to raise prints, make impressions of tool marks, determine the angles of shootings and other fun stuff. However, unlike the television show, almost everything has to go to the FDLE labs for analysis. There are no magic machines where you put in a drop of blood and get a "match" on someone's DNA in minutes. If it's not a high-profile violent crime, and they don't have a suspect's DNA for comparison, it can take 3 years for results. Best case scenario is more like several months.

The next lab showed how they collect evidence such as tire tracks or shoe prints. This is also the room where they super glue objects to raise prints, since this will "set" the print and reduce chances of it being unusable as evidence. Prints are identified 'in house' but again, most everything else goes out to the FDLE labs.

Oh -- and you know how the CSI folks are always doing Gunshot Residue tests? Nope. Although the test exists, it's barely reliable, and can't tell you if someone shot the gun. It's also expensive, the results take 3 months to come back, and the courts won't touch the results if it's been more than a few hours since the gun was fired and you have to be able to verify the suspect hasn't had a chance to change clothes or wash hands. However, the deputies CAN tell suspects that they're going to do the test, and if the suspects have been watching CSI, they might just confess because they think it's an immediate proof of their guilt.

The DO use those yellow evidence markers, though!

I'm sure I'll think of more little bits and pieces -- when I do, I'll post them.

1 comment:

Jessica Odell said...

Getting DNA is fun. It's "faster" if you have a good blood or saliva sample...but just the extraction can take days if you're working with other tissues. Then it's a good 18-hours minimum. But really...you gotta wait for the backlog in the lab. *grin*