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