Sources:“A Closer Look On Forensic Science“ written by Archana Singh
What is Forensic Science?
• Forensic science is the study and application of science to matters of law.
• Forensic Science (or Criminalistics) is the use of science & technology to enforce civil & criminal laws.
• It is vast & hard to define because it includes so many other areas of science.
Forensic science has developed over the past 300 years or so, and its processes continue to improve and evolve today as science and technology find better and more accurate techniques. In 1929 the first American forensic lab was created in Los Angeles by the police department.
Where and when is forensics used?
These days forensic science is used to investigate nearly all crime scenes. With the advancements of science, most forensic science techniques are a common and necessary part of a criminal investigation.
Why is it important?
There has always been a role for forensic science in criminal investigations, but with criminals committing clever, well thought out crimes more often, forensic science is now an essential tool for criminal investigations.
What skills are involved in forensic science?
Forensic science uses a lot of different skills. These include:
🔎 Observational skills – to be able to find and compare evidence. To be able to discover things the untrained eye may miss.
🔎 Evidence collection and analysis – this is vital to the role of a forensic scientist. Evidence that is collected needs to be well documented and it is crucial that contamination of evidence does not occur. To collect evidence a forensic scientist needs to be methodical and accurate.
🔎 Scepticism – healthy scepticism is an important part of investigating crimes. Everyone is a suspect until something concrete proves otherwise. It is also important to understand that witness accounts aren’t always very accurate. It has been found that when referring to memories (such as during a witness account) most people have trouble getting all details correct and most people’s perceptions are based on their personal lives and values.
Tool kit for a forensic scientist
Those forensic scientists required to find, collect, protect and transport evidence from the crime scene require a kit of tools to use. Although each forensic scientist may do things a little differently, there are typical tools that they all use. These are:
✴ Crime scene tape to secure the scene and the are around which the crime took place.
✴ Camera and film to photograph scene and evidence.
✴ Gauges to place in photos to allow for recording of scale.
✴ Sketchpad and pens for scene sketches.
✴ Disposable and protective clothing (overall suits), face masks and gloves (usually latex gloves).
✴ Torch and other light sources such as laser, ultra violet (UV) and infrared (IR) lighting. These different lights can uncover certain types of evidence that normal torchlight won’t.
✴ Magnifying glass to help with finding trace evidence.
✴ Tweezers for collecting evidence such as hair and fibres.
✴ Cotton wool buds (cotton swabs) for collecting samples of fluid evidence.
✴ Evidence bags (paper and plastic) and evidence tubes (plastic and glass) and marker pen to label evidence. This assists in keeping evidence uncontaminated and allows for safe and easy transport to the lab.
✴ Fingerprint supplies this includes things like ink, print cards, lifting tape, dusting powders (there are a variety of these for different situations) and exposing reagents (such as luminol).
✴ Casting kits for making casts of shoe/footwear prints, animal prints, tyres and tool markings.
Crime scene procedures
When investigators attend a crime scene, generally these procedure is as follows:
✔ Preserving life – whatever the type of crime scene. The first priority is to preserve life and assist any victims if they are injured.
✔ Suspects at the scene – suspects should be detained and removed from the scene. This also allows for searches, statements and behaviour to be documented.
✔ Controlling the scene – the more people who come in contact or visit the crime scene, the more difficult it is to keep the site uncontaminated and for investigators to collect evidence.
Reel Vs. Reality
While on TV shows such as CSI, where Forensic Investigators are seen interviewing witnesses, in “real” life, Forensic Investigators have no contact with witnesses, suspects or others. The role of Forensic Investigators is purely collection and analysis of evidence. It is up to the police to interview and put the pieces of the crime together.