If you are looking for Glamour, Gadgets and Grissom you won't find them here. Forget what you think you know about 'Forensics', these are the tales of one man and his brush. Of course these views do not represent the views of any Police Force or indeed reflect any Force Policies ya da ya.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Bloody Chocolate!

A few days a go I laughed at an old couple who mistook chocolate on their carpet for drops of blood and they had been avoiding it for hours awaiting our arrival. Oh how the Karma gods were angry with me!

Today I went shopping with the goodly missus and, after unloading the boot of the car, she brought hatch door down on my head with a thwack! It bloody well hurt, I put my hand to my head immediately and when I removed it, it was covered in blood. Or so I thought, turns out it was Green and Blacks finest chocolate that I had been troughing whilst driving home. Now I have a large lump on my head and a bruised ego!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Night of the Not Living dead.

Contrary to popular belief, crime scene work isn't all dead bodies, I usually deal with one or two every couple of months. They are usually Suicides or just Sudden Deaths (where an officer has panicked and insists on photos etc.) rather than a more sinister tale of murder and clever cover ups.

A bit like buses though, you wait ages for one and three turn up at once! On a Late shift I got called to a scene by Officers investigating a nasty smell from a particular flat of a person not seen for weeks. Upon entry the unfortunate chap had died and had been there for a few weeks, we don't usually attend if it is believed the death is of natural causes but because of the decomposition the officers wanted photos. Personally I think he just wanted me to check him for obvious injuries and he was too scared go near him.

No sooner had I finished with my photos than I get another call, another decomposed body at a different block of flats, CID were being called to this one as the Officers and supervision were suspicious because a coat had been draped over the body. Turns out he had pneumonia and he was trying to keep warm. When I finished with this body, the Officer said 'Are you going to the other one on the 3rd floor?', 'Other What?'' came my reply. 'Body, there is a Suicide down on the third floor, just been called in.'

What are the chances of that then?, 3 Bodies in one night is rare let alone two in the same block of flats. I know what you're thinking, are they connected? There was nothing at all to suggest it, but it did raise a few eyebrows around the station. I think some people just watch too much TV.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Great Expectations

Having to live up to the expectations of Grissom and co. can be hard work for your normal CSI, having seen all the incarnations of the CSI Brand and watched all the Discovery Channel specials etc. it's no wonder that you victim is a little peeved when you wave your magic dusting brush and tell them there is nothing of value. I'm sure it's the same for your normal Bobby when living up to The Bills standards of solving it all in half a hour (or is it on for a hour these days.)

I once examined someones car where a Power Tool had been taken off the passenger seat via a smashed Passenger window, I turned to the victim and said 'I'm really sorry but there is nothing of value for us.' The victim was aghast and could not believe that I had failed him. He said 'If this had been a murder you'd have done more, I know how it works, you just don't care about the little crimes.' This is very untrue, if I could help identify a little scroat for vehicle crime then I'm sure if put away it would reduce a large amount of vehicle crime in that area, giving everyone a quieter life (for a few months anyway!).

Of course the victim was right, I simply said 'Yes we could do more, but it wouldn't be proportionate to the offence and the cost of doing so in man hours alone would outweigh any benefits, especially as I have another 10 jobs to visit today that are more promising evidentially than a broken window.' He still wasn't happy, especially when I advised him not to leave expensive items on show in his vehicle in future, the truth is I had done all I could within reason. To do a full examination on a vehicle can take anything between 4 - 12 hours, depending on the crime, and when I have other jobs with potential DNA evidence and People waiting to open businesses it's just not possible.

He threatened to make a complaint, which I encouraged by providing him with the Chief Constables details, my details and various phone numbers. No complaint was ever received as it was all just frustrated bluster, something I'm now good at spotting.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Dream Job

Sorry about the lack of posts this week, had a few days away earlier in the week then all hell breaks loose on my return to work. I have been pulling some long shifts the past few days and the last thing I want to do when I finally have some time at home is write about work.

I have a real problem switching off at times, and if I go straight to bed after a Late or long shift I end up dreaming about work and then I feel like I have never left the place. I have tried to claim overtime for dreaming about jobs, but I've been told I get paid too much already.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

New Digs

We may soon be moving offices, to a smaller Police Station and we will have the entire premises to ourselves. There will be more space for us to barricade ourselves into our desk with exhibits and we'll have more storage facilities for bread, milk and Post Mortem samples. Even better though when it's the 'Q' word (we try not to say 'quiet' for fear of the Karma gods punishing us) we can sit with our feet up watching miserable Soaps on the TV without worrying about surprise visits from the management team.

Change can be quite exiting, but the move isn't to accommodate us at all,no siree! it's all part of the SMTs obsession with creating Teams/Squads/depts that have limited use but do enough to disrupt everyone around them, then after a while when it doesn't work it all changes back to normal and we end up switching offices again. All at a nice cost to the taxpayer. Anyway the new team/squad/dept want our office for logistical reasons (it's nearer the vending machine.), so I'm hoping we get purpose made digs to sweeten the deal. I have decided to base my shopping list on the corridors of the Las Vegas Crime Lab.

1. I want all rooms to be Glass Partitioned, except for the Toilet.

2. I want a see-through 'whiteboard' to draw complex diagrams upon (and crudely drawn penises)

3. I want a lightbox as big as a Snooker table to do huge reconstructions on and to see which donut has the most jam in it.

4. I want at least 5 plasma screens in each room all showing exactly the same thing, and if possible have our crappy system enhanced by snazy graphics.

5. I want a huge glass cabinet with lots of Jars on them, and eerie lighting throughout the office to create that serious mood ala the X files.

6. A cabinet to shoot firearms into, preferably the cabinet that stores all our PDRs

A man can dream, I'd settle for a new Kettle though!

Thursday, 14 June 2007

My First 'Hit'

Nothing is more rewarding than a young and enthusiastic CSI identifying their first suspect. One colleague of mine was so proud he framed his first 'Ident'. I didn't go that far, but I do remember my first ident and the Job well, it's kind of a Rite of Passage into the forensic world.

I had completed my induction training and after having a few months shadowing an experienced CSI, I had my training wheels removed and I was free to tackle as much volume crime as you could shake a synthetic bristled stick at!

A small business premises located on an industrial estate had it's fax machine and a laptop stolen from the reception area during trading hours, the officers who had attended asked that a member of our team come along and 'throw a bit of powder around'. I turned up an hour or so later to examine the scene. Basically our suspect had merely walked into the reception area, taken the items off the receptionists desk and walked out. The desk was behind a partitioned wall and had glass sliding hatch, the Receptionist told me she usually keeps the hatch shut to cut out the noise from the factory across the road so our suspect must have handled the hatch.

'Great!' thought I, nice smooth shiny surface and a definite area handled by offender. So off I go with my powder twizzling a brush like an expert and I develop about 12 marks off both surfaces. 'Wonderful!', but then my brain kicked in, this is a Public area it may be hard to prove, but wait!, there is CCTV evidence available, 'Brilliant!'. The CCTV had yet to be downloaded from the system so was still available for me to view, so I sat and watched as our man walks in, takes a quick look around in that suspicious shady manner that only scroats can pull off, places both hands sideways on the glass hatch(exactly the position I had just recovered marks from) and pulls the thing open, grabs his swag and legs it out the door. Within the week our chappie is identified and away we go with charging, bailing, sentencing. Yours truly doesn't even make the stand to give evidence in court as our suspect goes guilty under the weight of evidence against him. So one bad guy in jail and my first notch on my brush.

Looking back, I wish all my jobs were that easy and all offenders were just as stupid. Although I was immensely proud of myself at the time, I now realise that any half trained Monkey with a brush could have solved that one.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

PC Jon Henry

I was going to post something else today but the news of Jon Henry's death throws into perspective some of the trivial gripes that get trotted out across the Plod-Blogsphere. Naturally my thoughts are with Jon's family, friends and colleagues at this time. But also spare a thought for those who are required to work within the investigation who would have worked along side Jon day to day and will have to uphold their professionalism under close scrutiny as well as maintaining their own emotions and anger.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Overdue Poo.

Sorry not much of an update today and I'm conscious that it's been over 3 days since my last Post. (soon Sayonara will moaning at me again). Anyway I have had a busy weekend, Stag do Friday night, hangover Saturday, Gardening, Shopping and snoozing Sunday.

The nearest activity to forensic work this weekend was conducting my own line search of the lawn for dog poo before cutting it. Amazingly I'm useless at finding anything at home, be it car keys, that shirt I like, my lucky pants, any number of pens etc, and yet I'm trusted to find evidence in the minutest of forms at work! Perhaps if I was being paid by the hour I might have more luck, then of course I would have to string it out longer than necessary to get a bit of OT (oh no he didn't......)

Thursday, 7 June 2007

So you wanna be CSI?

I always get asked how I got into this Job, the short answer is 'Luck!'. I was working in the Admin department down my Local Station a year or so after the force started 'Civilianising' SOCO posts. I hadn't realised until then that I was eligible to apply, so I spent the next few years working diligently, getting promoted, leaning to drive, researching the job (easier to do when you have a foot in the door) and just applying for every SOCO post going until they finally caved in.

Nowadays it not so easy to get into, what with it suddenly being a popular job and that some Universities and colleges now run degrees/courses. So for all those wannabe CSIs, here are some tips that I genuinely believe will help.

1.Do a college or degree course if you can, but don't think for a moment this will allow you to waltz into any job. Most Senior SOCOs/CSI's are likely not to have these qualifications and may even frown on them or indeed feel threatened. Prepare to be open minded and not full of stuff you learned in a classroom.

2. A background in the Forensic Field is not always necessary, nor is a degree or even A levels (in some forces). Previous work in the Public sector or dealing empathetically with the public will help. All the training will be provided if you get a job.

3. Be patient and be prepared to aim low. Some forces employ Volume Crime Scene Examiners or Vehicle Examiners, this is possibly the best way to get into the job as you will learn the fundamental skills required to become a CSI. If this fails apply for any job within your local police force (in any field) and work you way from the inside. A lot of CSI/SOCO jobs are advertised as Internal Only initially and there is always a lot of competition for these posts.

4.Do some Research. If you don't have a Forensic Qualification or previous background, then you'll need to research the job well, and no, having boxsets of CSI does not class as research, in fact don't even mention it in jest at a interview. Best way to research is to speak to people who do the job, try and get a Half an hour to talk with a CSI at your local station, or if you are at school or college try getting some work experience there. The internet is also full of lots of info. (try and stick to UK based sites as it is done differently everywhere)

5. Keep applying. A lot of vacancies get filled by established SOCO/CSIs looking to move forces or areas, when this happens they invariably vacate a post that will be advertised, chase the gaps and sooner or later you could get lucky.

Boy am I glad I got in when I did! To be honest it isn't the most difficult job in the world to do, most people with an ounce of common sense and intellect would have no problems, it's just the getting in is the hard part. Good Luck!

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

She's Bloody Positively Preggars!

I have left many items of equipment behind at jobs in my years, torches, pots of Ali Powder, brushes, paperwork and the odd piece of evidence (eek!), but one of the most recent gaffs caused a bit of family controversy after my examination at their Burglary.

There were a few odd looking spots near the broken glass at the point of entry, in this case a kitchen window. Now the window frames were wooden and coated with varnish, which when spilled looks similar to spots of blood. Luckily we have some of these in our cases which help solve the problem. Basically they are used in the medical field to test for blood in urine, but they also act as a presumptive test for blood at a scene. It basically a thin strip of paper with a small yellow pad at the end which turns green when hemoglobin is present. So I use one of these fellas and unfortunately it's varnish, usually if negative I'll chuck in the bin, but for some reason I slipped it in my pocket. What I didn't realise is that it slipped out when examining the daughters bedroom (easy now!)

So about three hours later back in the office I get a very stressed mother on the phone. 'I think the Offenders have left something at the scene, we think it's a pregnancy testing kit, my daughter says it's not hers!'

I thought this to be very odd, and possibly naive on the parents part, so I agree to go back and check it out. On the journey down there I'am wrestling with my conscience, do I make believe that I think it's possible the offenders left it? to save the daughter getting into trouble? or do I have a quiet word with the parents about the social habits of their precious princess. In then end it didn't matter as it was the Hemastix strip I had left behind. Apparently the daughter and the mother had been arguing for hours over this and I was called to discredit her daughters claim that it came from the offenders. When I left for the second time the relief had replaced the anger in the house, but I could feel two pairs of eyes burning into the back of my head as I walked to my van.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

CSI Squad!

With all this talk of Civvies vs Police staff, I wonder back to the time when I was on the verge of putting an application in for 'The Job' myself. I had been trying for a couple of years to get a SOCO job but they were all being filled by already experienced SOCOs who were moving areas to suit their personal circumstances. I was close to giving up and looking for a career elsewhere in the force.

Looking back I'm glad I eventually got into SOCO, not that being a Officer would have been that bad, I just really wanted to do crime scene work (this was way before the likes of CSI Las Vegas etc..) I only wish there was more drama involved like in American cop shows. I have therefore made a list of my needs as a dynamic risk taking maverick CSI.

I want blue lights on my van, not overt ones but ones behind the grill and on the sun visors.

I want sparks to appear under my van when exiting the rear yard.

I want a holster for my brush, and my brush will be known as an inoffensive old womans name like Barbara or Enid.

I want to be able to use the expression ' The DA's breathing down my neck to clinch this case.' every once in a while.

I want the chief to say 'You're a maverick and a loose-cannon, you're suspended give me your badge and your brush.' and as I hand them over he looks at the Zephyr brush concealed in my socks and goes '..and the other one!'

I want to eat hot dogs and drink coffee from street-side vendors whilst talking passionately about my current case with my demographic pleasing ethnic sidekick.

I want a complex love life and alcohol dependency, that will inevitably cause me to loose my wife, who I then win back by saving her from bad men after a short spell in rehab.

I want to die in dramatic circumstances retrieving evidence that proves beyond doubt a serial murder case, when I have only two days until retirement.

It's not much to ask is it?