I have been in my force now for just under six months. In this time I have had to complete a workbook. The workbook consisted of 11 modules. Each module concentrated on a specific subject or department within the Police or Criminal Justice System.
For example, I completed attachments with CID, the Intelligence Unit and the Fingerprint Bureau. I was required to complete a workbook for each department which confirmed my understanding of each topic.
Early in 2010 I will be attending my training at a national training centre with the National Police Improvment Agency (NPIA)
There will be othe CSIs from other forces on the course also. The course is a five week residential course. Once I have completed this I will be expected to work towards another workbook and attend colume crime scenes alone for approximately six months. Once I complete the second workbook I will return to the NPIA for a further four weeks, after which I can attend major crime scenes alone when required.
I am very much looking forward to attending my training and will keep you all updated whilst I am there. You can find out more here.
I arrived at 2250 hours after a hard day riding roller coaster after roller coaster at a large USA Theme Park. I managed to squeeze in a few hours sleep after dinner. We followed a couple of Police vehicles into the rear yard, there was a church bus type vehicle behind us.
The Police Department car park was buzzing with activity. It was the shift change time. In the USA, Police Officers are allocated their own vehicle and take it home at the end of the shift.
I found an Officer in the car park and told him who I was and who I was there to meet. He took me to the CSI Department to meet Frank, Merissa and Jerry. Frank is the supervisor and Merissa and Jerry are Crime Scene Technicians (CSTs)
Through the report writing room was where the evidence lockers were. There were lockers of various sizes, some with padlocks and some without. Those with padlocks had evidence contained within. When a CST recovers items from a scene, it is stored within these lockers between examinations. Each time the locker is opened, it is logged and recorded for continuity purposes.
Through the evidence room was a ballistics room, where found and seized guns are test fired. This use to be done by an external agency, but Frank's department has recently taken delivery of the equipment which enables them to do this.
Frank took me on a tour of the City and showed me the areas where most of his work is carried out. Like here in the UK, some areas suffer more crime than others
We visited a number of places, one of which was the Medical Examiner's (ME) office. The ME's office was brand new, the offices had only been open a few weeks. The ME's office is where post mortems are carried out.
Sadly, the evening passed without event. Not a single job came in that required the CSI department. It was however a great pleasure to meet some colleagues from outside the UK. I hope to continue the relationship and keep in touch with each member of Frank's shift.
I was especially thankful for the breakfast at Denny' and the starbucks coffee!
My most recent training day was at the local Crown Court.
I arrived at the court at 1000. As I approached the court I could see six fluorescent jackets outside. Three on each side of the automatic doors. I hadn't seen police officers outside a court before. I have attended Magistrates Court a number of times due to a previous role.
I thought that maybe there was an important case on today that required a police presence. As I entered the main hall way I was met by an airport style security system. There were three metal detectors and approximately three security officers at each gate. I emptied my pockets and put my car keys, mobile and wallet in the basket and walked through, it beeped. One of the guards scanned my person with a metal detector wand. I collected my belongings and continued inside.
There were a further four officers and another officer in a navy shirt, with a firearm.
It appears that security at this court is important.
I didn't know any of the officers in the court, my force is quite large and I may not even meet them again.
I made my way to the 'CUSTOMER SERVICE DESK'. I found it quite amusing that the court refer to it's users as 'Customers'.
There were two people ahead of me. One appeared to be a defendant and was trying to find out if his case was being heard today or not. He seemed agitated. The second was a middle aged women in wet weather wear and was pulling a small case on wheels. It appeared she came to view a case from the public gallery.
When it was my turn, I spoke through the toughened glass to the elderly female behind the counter and explained who I was and that I wanted to watch the case being heard in Court 8. She asked for my ID and pointed me in the right direction.
I wanted to watch the case being heard in Court 8 as I had spoken to a Witness Care Officer (who works for the police, and deals with warning witnesses etc for court) and she explained that one of her cases was surrounding a death by dangerous charge. I expected this to be an interesting case.
I walked up two flights of stairs to the first floor.
I sat down on the galvanized metal bench outside Court 8. The whole building was really impressive. It was a very grand building. It appeared to be a very old building, although maintained very well. The floor looked like marble. The hall way was lined with large columns.
A gentleman sat two seats away from me. I'm not sure why people don't sit on the seat next to other people but nearly always leave a gap. It turned out that this gentleman was the defendant in the case I was watching.
There were many people hurrying around the halls, going up and down the stairs and getting in and out of the lift. There was a clock approximately four foot in diameter about two feet off the ground on the wall. It seemed to jerk back and forth when the minute hand moved.
There are a number of Courts that defendants and witnesses would attend. The Court you attend would depend normally on the offence and your age (for youths). The flow chart below has been taken from www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk
There were a number of barristers walking around and talking to defendants outside of other courts. The barrister for the case I was going to watch appeared to be in his late fifties, he had white/grey hair visible under his off white wig, and glasses with frames around only half the lenses. He looked very smart. His suit had white parallel lines on the dark blue pinstripe suit. He slid his hands in his trouser pockets as he approached the defendant behind the robe that hung beside him.
The clock shook at half past ten. There was an announcement over the tannoy for the defendant sat two seats away to go into Court 8. A few minutes after he entered, I walked through and sat on a cinema style fold down seat behind a wooden panel topped with glass. I could see the whole court from here, except where the defendant was sitting.
Two young lads walked in a few minutes afterwards and sat in the isle behind me. They were wearing tracksuits bottoms and stripey jumpers. It didn't appear that they knew the defendant. I think they just came to watch also.
The court room wasn't as big as I expected it would be. There was a desk almost the width of the courtroom which was clearly where the judge would sit. Below this was another desk and there was a male and female sat on chairs. The female appeared to be recording everything of note, mainly what was being said.
Then there were three rows of benches facing the judge. At one of the first bench was the Barrister working on behalf of the Crown and sat behind him was a member of staff from CPS, the Crown Prosecution Service. It is CPS who bring the charges against the defendant based on the evidence and investigation supplied by the police. At the opposite end of the first bench was the defence Barrister.
The Court Usher seemed to hurry himself around the room picking things up and talking to people. He seemed to know when the Judge was going to enter and said "ALL RISE" I wasn't sure if this meant me or not so I stood anyway.
There were some discussions between the defence and prosecution Barristers and the Judge, mainly surrounding how they were going to approach the witnesses and they discussed the timetable of the morning. These things don't take a few hours, they suggested the case would last over a week.
Surprisingly, the defence and prosecution Barristers got along very well. It didn't appear they knew each other but spoke to each other in a very friendly way. At one point in the discussion, I heard the prosecution Barrister say "I won't be difficult at that part, we agree on that part"
I'd never seen anyone in the court room before, but strangely felt some form of involvement in the proceedings.
The purpose of this discussion was so that the Jury didn't hear any of it.
The Jury were brought in by the stone faced Usher who instructed them to sit on the seats and face the front.
The Judge explained that it was important anyone who knew any witness or the defendant make the Court aware of that fact so they can sit on another case.
The Jury are normal members of the public who are called to do two weeks worth of Jury duty. Only in certain circumstances can someone be excused from such duty.
There was a serving Police Constable amongst those to be selected. The Judge excused him. I can only assume that the Judge thought that the PC would have a biased opinion on the case in question. I would imagine for this reason, he will be excused from a number of cases.
The Jury of twelve was selected. The remaining few were taken out the Court again by the Usher, to be used elsewhere.
The details of the case will remain untold here. Its not my place to disclose this information.
I stayed to hear the opening by the prosecution Barrister. He tended to use the expression "Ladies and Gentleman many times in a sentence. I found this odd, as he was clearly a very articulate and clever man.
The Barrister mentioned a number of things that included how the deceased had died and what he thought had caused it. He outlined the main points to be heard by the key witnesses and even what he thought the likely defence would be. He did however summarise, as I'm sure the Judge would have, that the evidence heard in the court is what must form the basis of the Jury's decision to convict or not.
The opening took the best part of forty minutes. By this time, as the Court had started late, the Judge decided to break for lunch. This was my time to leave.
Apologies for the delay in the posting of this update. There have been a number of incidents in the recent weeks that have been very interesting and would be great material for you all to read but due to the sensitive nature of the events, I cannot write about them at this time as those involved may be identified due to press coverage. I will however, draft the post and save it for some time in the future.
I'm off on holiday next week and will blog about my attachment with a CSI department in the USA when I return.
The briefing was necessary for Dr Scrubs to understand the circumstances surrounding the deceased male's death. We had a maxpac coffee whilst the Dr read the thick wedge of notes on the deceased male. This took about fifteen minutes.
Luckily CSI Girl had told me that I would have to go into the changing rooms and change into scrubs after the briefing so I knew that bit was next.
I walked into the changing rooms. They looked like a leisure centre changing room, a couple of cubicles with toilets and a shower. There was a large cabinet against one wall full of light and dark blue scrubs. I took a pair of trousers and a top. I undressed and put all my clothes in a locker. I put the scrubs on, luckily there was a pull cord on the waist of the trousers as they didn't quite fit.
As I was in the male changing room I was accompanied by the Detective and the Doctor. Once we were all changed, we walked through to the next room. It was small, along one wall was a rack full of wellington boots. Some were stood in a solution and some were hung on the racking. I took a pair of size tens off the rack and put them on.
CSI Girl and the Detective Sergeant came through another door and booted up. We all went into the examination room.
The room wasn't as big as I was expecting. I could see a sealed 'body bag' on a trolley in the corner by the fridges. There was a table in the middle of the room with a contraption above it, which looked like an assortment of lights.
The Doctor pulled the trolley closer to the table in the middle of the room. I took a step backwards. He read the seal number on the bag out loud and it was recorded.
The bag was unzipped and opened. The male lay inside the bag. He looked pale. He had an assortment of bruises all over his torso but he looked clean.
The trolley was pushed alongside the table so it was parallel and touching. The Dr and the technician lifted the male out of the bag by his arms and legs onto the examination table. The male wasn't slim. As they lifted him, they let out a gentle grunt.
The technician looked as if he worked in a Mortuary. He was tall, frail looking, he must have been in his early fifties, had long grey hair and was missing a tooth, exposing his upper gum about three teeth in.
The Doctor began with a visual exterior examination. The most obvious injuries were the bruises. The Pathologist examined each part of the body in turn and dictated notes, which the Detective recorded. As the Doctor said something, he would often repeat it, "There is reddening, there is reddening"
The Doctor used a scalpel and cut into some of the bruises, this allowed him to interpret the damage. On the left forearm he cut the complete length and all the way down to the bone. I could hear the blade scraping n the bone. He did this front and back.
Once the exterior examination was done, it was time for the bit I was expecting but wasn't looking forward to. The Doctor began to cut open parts of the male's body.
He started with the back. It was surprising how easy the body could be opened up with such a small scalpel. The incision was an upside down Y.
The body didn't bleed when it was cut, when the heart doesn't beat there is no blood pressure.
The room smelt like a butchers. It wasn't a particularly unpleasant smell.
The skin was lined with fat on the inside, it was a strange yellow colour and textured.
Once the back was done, the technician used a rather large needle and thread and stitched the back up again. I was impressed by the speed in which this was done.
The Doctor and technician then turned the male's body over on his back.
The front of the body was cut open and you could clearly see the ribs. The Doctor cut a section out of the ribs in the middle and placed it on the table. You could then see most of the internal organs. It's interesting to see how all of the organs are organised into such a small space.
There was a large amount of straw coloured fluid in and around the body and it's organs. This fluid was scooped out with a ladle into a few jugs and measured.
Each of the organs was cut out and put into a large bowl. It looked like a plastic mixing bowl. When this was done, the body lay there with just the ribs exposed. Each rib had been cut between.
The Technician dragged a machine close to the table and plugged it in the wall. It looked like a hoover. It was an electrical cutting blade with a suction tube attached to it.
The technician used a razor and took the male's hair off around the back of his head. He then used a scalpel and cut around the back of the male's head. The skin was then folded up and forward, it came down over his face. This exposed the skull.
I then realised what the machine was for.
It started up and sounded like a drill. The technician used it to cut away a section at the rear of the skull. The section that was cut was persuaded off with a T shaped chisel. The attached tube sucked the dust away. It stank. It smelt of burning.
I walked to the head end of the table and I could see the brain, inside the skull. It looked just like I expected it to, even though I hadn't seen one before. It was cut and removed. It was then weighed and put into a tub and sealed.
The Doctor then took the bowl of organs to the sink. He washed each under a running tap. I wonder where the waste waters ends up?
"The Liver is enlarged, the Liver is enlarged"
He conducted a visual examination of each organ, dictating his thoughts to the Detective. He weighed each organ and this was recorded also.Each had a section cut away and this was put into a separate tub. This was for histology reports. The tissues would be examined and studied in detail.
The male was an alcoholic and this had an adverse effect on his organs. The damage was clearly visible.
Once the Doctor had completed this we left the room. I asked CSI girl what would happen to the body and she explained that the organs would be returned to the body, in a plastic bag and the male would be sewn back up. The male would stay at the Mortuary for a period of time, so that a second Post Mortem could be conducted if required.
We left via the wellington boot room, I took my boots off and put them in the solution. I removed my gloves and put them in the yellow clinical waste bin, using the pedal to open it. We unchanged and put our clothes back on.
We all met back in the briefing room where the Doctor told the Detective Sergeant what his thoughts were.
This whole process took about four hours. We went back to the office completed some paperwork before finished duty for the day.
Although anxious at what I might feel and think during the Post Mortem, I found it really interesting. I am now prepared for the next one, whenever that may be.
Although this is the second out of three posts that involves a death I must add that we don't deal with these discoveries every day!
We don't know when we turn in for work at 0700 what the day will present. We can, however, expect certain jobs on a regular basis. Burglaries, TOMV (Theft of Motor Vehicle) as well as TFMV (Theft From Motor Vehicle) and assaults. We photograph injuries for certain levels of assaults, I will cover this in a future post. Every now and then, probably a few times a week, we will also attend a house or other building that has been used for the cultivation of Cannabis. We call these Cannabis Factories. This list in not definitive and we'd attend most scenes if there was a requirement for forensic recovery.
I want to share my experience of a discovery of a male who had been deceased for somewhere between 10-12 months.
The male lived alone in a local authority owned property. The male was not elderly and well below 50.
He was discovered by bailiffs acting on behalf of the local authority, who had attended the property to evict the tenant for non payment of rent.
They found out why he hadn't paid it.
There was a mass of envelopes and flyers, mainly junk and overdue bills, nothing personal. There were a number of handwritten and hand delivered debt collection notices.
The Police will often attend incidents of unexplained deaths. CSI will attend, normally we are the first to enter the scene, and we will work with CID to determine the cause of death.
When both CSI Girl and I arrived we put on gloves (I've always got a pocket full!) and a full body suit.
When we walked in I could smell the decomposition.
The property was a maisonette and had one living room, one bedroom, a kitchen and small bathroom. There was no furniture in the living room, not even a TV, something many of us consider a necessity.
The male had died whilst in the bath.
Decomposition or putrefaction is the gradual breakdown of dead organic matter and the release of elements and compounds into the environment. In the human body, decomposition usually starts immediately but isn't noticeable for a few hours.
The energy and water suppliers had cut the supply to the address. The toilet had no water in it, it was just lined with brown staining. With no heating, the property was noticeably colder than outside. This meant that although decomposition had occurred, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
The male was on his back with his knees bent slightly, like some taller people do in the bath. The stopper was in but most of the water had seeped down the plughole. There was about 3 inches of bodily fluids, a dark brown colour, in the bottom of the bath.
It stank, I had a mask but chose not to wear it. I got use to it after a few minutes.
There were hundreds of dead flies in the house. There were also little brown marks on the windows and sills. These marks were transfer from the body caused by the flies landing on the male and moving away again. Entomology can assist to establish an estimate to the time of death but only really within a number of hours rather than months. Certain insects will appear before others and these insects go through certain cycles.
A police surgeon attended the scene to pronounce the male as deceased. A medical practitioner needs to do this and strangely the male was pronounced deceased at the time of the examination, but had clearly been dead a long time.
The male's neighbours didn't really know him. It appears that he'd lived there for about 3 years, but never really spoke to anyone else. No one missed him either.
My next blog will discuss some of the chemical treatments used to find fingerprints on items unsuitable for powdering.
As we approached 123 Any Street, there was a PCSO diverting traffic down a parellel road. He recognised our unmarked van and waved us through. There were three fire engines in the road. I could hear indistinct voices on their radios. The shutters were up on the side of each engine. There was dirty water in the gutter where excess water from the hoses ran over the small patch of grass regarded as a garden at the front of the flats.
The flat was the last on the ground floor of a block of twelve which was arranged four side by side on three floors. Both CSI Girl and I bent over and made our way under the police tape and gave our names and collar numbers to the officer managing the scene log.
We walked down the side of the flats and through the gate. The back door was open, there was what looked like rubbish scattered over the grassed area. It turned out that these items were personal effects from the flat that the fire officers had removed in order to gain entry to the flat.
There were one or two fire officers inside, without breathing apparatus surveying the scene. I stepped closer to the back door. The door was a UPVC frame with two large sections of glass, top and bottom. I put my hand on the glass, it had a thick coating of soot, my hand left a void in the soot.
I'd never smelt it before but I new what it was.
As I entered the flat, I stood in the living room. It was full of charred belongings, each item with a thick black coating. There was hardly room to stand. There were items everywhere that hadn't been moved for years. It was a one level flat, living room, kitchen, and bathroom. No bedroom. This was accommodation provided by the local authority for one elderly male. It was shocking. This male had been left on his own, without aid for months and months. There was little evidence of any substantial diet.
The hallway was the root of the smell. Naked from the waist down lay a seventy something male, on his back on top of a collapsed bicycle, an expression on his face of shock. His mouth was wide open.
Rigor Mortis had fully developed and was present in his face, jaw, arms, legs and hands.
I won't forget the smell. It was mixed with smoke and soot. It wasn't as strong as it could have been. The door had been open for some time when I had arrived which provided some ventilation.
The Fire Brigade had sent a member of FIT, the Fire Investigation Team, to determine the source of the fire. It transpired that there was an electrical fault on a light in an old display cabinet that had slowly burnt the chipboard.
It was unclear what had caused the elderly male to die. Had he died before the fire or as a result of it? He had soot in his nostrils, which may suggest he was breathing when the smoke was present. The cause of death wouldn't be determined until a Post Mortem was complete.
I held the male's arms in place as well as I could so that CSI Girl could photograph his hands and arms. This was done as a way to show that there were no injuries, defensive or otherwise. His arms were cold to touch.
CSI Girl took a number of photographs of the male. She also took photographs of the flat. This helps show the standard of living of the deceased male. The bath was full of belongings piled almost as high as the top of the door frame. The kitchen surfaces had rubbish and frying pans scattered over them with an additional layer of dust and dirt that had collected over the months.
It was decided that the fire was accidental and not suspicious. All the doors were locked and there was no sign of forced entry. The male was elderly and visibly frail. He had no injuries. The photographs would be kept for evidential purposes. The post mortem was likely to confirm the FIT's thoughts.
One thing that I will remember is that the smoke detectors had been removed. The elderly male was a smoker and didn't like going outside to smoke. If the detector was in place it may have given an early warning.
This blog will allow me to share my experiences and thoughts during my training and development as a Crime Scene Investigator.
Although I have worked for a police force before I have never had any experience of the role of a CSI.
I've been in the role now for just under two months. I'm based with other CSI's who vary in experience. Some have been in the role for almost as many years as I am in age and others not so long. I have a mentor who has been in the role for around 9 years.
I have a very good understanding of the law and how a police force operates.
I know that I am going to see so many things. Some will be odd. Some will be run of the mill and some will be disturbing.
People have asked me how I will deal with the things I will see and my reply is that I will do everything as professionally as possible and not attach myself to the incident. Afterall, this will be work.