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)

I was surprised to see that there were only two CSTs and one Supervisor on a night shift in this large City.

There are three shifts in this department, an early shift, a late shift and a night shift. This provides maximum resilience for any incidents that may take place. CSTs are aligned to a shift permanently, so a CST who is on nights, will always do nights.

At the moment, in the UK most CSI departments do not work night shifts and instead have CSIs on standby over night. There is mention in my force of night shift working, which will negate the need to be on standby. I am quite looking forward to it, this should allow CSIs to plan their free time better. At the moment, if you are on standby, you may or may not be called out.

Unfortunately, like most public authorities, Frank's office has seen some budget cuts and job losses. His shift use to have five. One thing is sure though, crime will continue regardless of the economic problems. Some would say that crime increases in times of economic turn down.

Frank showed me around the department.

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.

Then there was a corridor with various rooms along it's length. The CSI department here is based where the firing range use to be, this explains it's odd layout.

The next room was the 'Ninhydrin Room' where various chemicals were used to develop fingerprints and other crime scene marks. Ninhydrin is the most common chemical used to develop prints. I will blog about Ninhydrin in my next couple of posts - it's interesting! Also in this room was a superglue fuming cabinet. Superglue can be used for some surfaces to develop fingerprints and other marks.

The last room we looked in was the powdering room. When items are recovered from a scene they are developed here using various powders and brushes to find fingerprints.

I was interested to see that the CSTs here do the chemical work themselves. In my force we have a separate department who will take items suitable for chemical development and treat them on behalf of the CSIs. This includes Ninhydrin, superglue, soot removal, metal disposition and other dyes.

After the tour of the department Frank asked me to sign a waiver. The waiver was only one side of A4, but in short, I was signing to waive any rights if I was injured or killed whilst on the ride along with him.........

Shortly after this, we went to look around the vehicles. The CSTs drive marked Police vehicles. The only difference on the CSI department's vehicles to the Police Officer's vehicles is the addition of 'Crime Scene Unit' The vehicles have light bars, but with red and white lights. In this State, only Police Officers use blue lights, the Fire, Ambulance and other emergency vehicles (e.g Crime Scene Unit) use white and red lights.
The vans are large Fords, big enough to hold all the kit a CST may need and any evidence they may recover. In my force, we drive small unmarked vans.

I asked why they had marked vans. Frank explained that there was a debate as to whether they should be marked or not. Merissa said she preferred mark vehicles, and went on to explain that as she is often single crewed, she feels safer knowing that people know she works for the City's Police Department. Some of the areas she drives are rough, car jackings happen a lot. If she was in an unmarked van she may be victim to a car jacking, whereas, you'd hope that most offenders would avoid car jacking a marked Police vehicle!

Frank took me out in his vehicle, this was a 4x4 and was still marked, with the addition of 'Supervisor' on the front wing. I approached the left hand side of the vehicle and Frank pointed out that the passenger seat was on the other side in the USA! It was late...

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!

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