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