Many crime scene investigations revolved around safeguarding the crime scenes, protecting physical evidence, and gathering and transferring the evidence for scientific evaluation. This process is based on the role that physical evidence plays in the overall investigation and determination of a suspected criminal activity. Notably, the ability for physical evidence to play its role in the overall investigation process is dependent on actions that are taken early enough during the criminal investigation process at the crime scene. In the past few years, criminal investigation processes have been enhanced by technological developments in the examination and interpretation of physical evidence obtained from the crime scene. These developments have place greater emphasis on proper documentation and preservation of evidence. The eventual significance of evidence obtained from the crime scene involves investigations that are thorough, objective, and thoughtful. Nonetheless, crime scene investigations consist of various processes such as controlling the crime scene, gathering and marking evidence, and documenting and submitting evidence.
Approaching and Controlling the Crime Scene:
The first step in crime scene investigations is approaching, arriving at, and controlling the crime scene in order to safeguard evidence that would help in resolution of a criminal activity ("A Guide for General Crime Scene Investigation," 2009). Approaching the crime scene is a process that is usually carried out by initial responding law enforcement personnel. This process has various steps including responding with caution, following safety procedures, providing emergency care, and securing and controlling people at the scene. The other steps include identifying, establishing, protecting and securing boundaries, transferring control of the scene to investigators, and documenting observations and actions.
Law enforcement personnel who arrive at the scene of crime are required to be methodical and cautious in their approach in safeguarding the scene. The need for methodical and cautious approach originates from the significance of safeguarding physical evidence. As a result, these officers should seek to protect the scene through minimal contamination of the physical evidence. When approaching the crime scene, the officers should remain alert and attentive, consider the site as a crime scene until it has been examined and determined otherwise, and note or log dispatch information. The other steps in the cautious approach include making initial observations to ensure their safety and examine the scene, take note of individuals and vehicles leaving or entering the location.
Approaching the crime scene also involves following safety procedures through identifying any harmful situations or individuals to keep themselves and the public safe. This involves ensuring that there are no direct threats to other responders and investigators and using an approach that enhances safety of victims and witnesses. This is achieved through a thorough scan of the crime scene for any sounds, sights, and smells with potential threats and danger. In case of any injuries to victims or witnesses, the initial responding officers should provide for emergency care to these people while lessening the contamination of the location ("A Guide for General Crime Scene Investigation," 2009). The provision for emergency care includes evaluating the medical needs of the injured people, calling for medical personnel, guiding the personnel, and recording movement of individuals and items by medical personnel.
The safety of the crime scene is achieved through securing and controlling people in the location. The first step in this process is to identify all persons at the location, especially the suspects, witnesses, victims, bystanders, family and/or friends, medical and other assisting individuals. The suspects, witnesses, and victims should be secured and isolated from the rest of the people while bystanders are removed from the scene and family and/or friends are controlled through compassionate means. After identifying every person at the scene, the responding officers should prevent these people from interfering or destroying evidence through limiting their movements and activities. The other approach towards ensuring safety of the crime scene is to exclude non-essential and unauthorized personnel such as the media from accessing the crime scene because they are not working the case.
With regards to control of the crime scene, the law enforcement personnel should identify, create, safeguard, and secure boundaries. During this process, the officers should expand the boundaries beyond the initial scope of the crime location with the understanding that these boundaries can be decreased in size when necessary. The establishment of these boundaries involves starting at the focal point and extending to include the site where the crime took place, probable entry and exit paths of suspects and witnesses, and locations with victims or evidence. It also includes creating physical barriers, documenting the entry and exit of all individuals, controlling the flow of people, recording the initial location of victims and items that have been moved, and considering search and seizure. It's also important to ensure that people should not chew tobacco, eat or drink, make phone calls, smoke, touch anything, spit, litter, and move any items within the established boundaries ("A Guide for General Crime Scene Investigation," 2009).
The other important steps in crime scene investigations are to transfer control of the scene to investigators and record observations and actions. The transfer of control of the crime scene to investigators requires briefing the investigators, assisting them in controlling the location, transferring the responsibility, and remaining at the location. The documentation process incorporates recording conditions of arrival, actions by officers, and personal information.
Broadcasting Alarms and Media Relations:
While the media is one of the unauthorized and non-essential personnel in a crime scene, broadcasting alarms and media relations is an important aspect of crime scene investigations. Effective relations between the media and law enforcement personnel during crime scene investigations is important in protecting and safeguarding physical evidence because it helps in avoiding unintentional contamination of the evidence. Media relations during crime scene investigations should be based on the department's written policy that provides measures for restricting unnecessary access to crime scenes. The need for the policy originates from the fact that initial responding officers may face challenges in protecting the crime scene.
The written policy to govern every activity at the crime scene provides a level playing field for all stakeholders in the scene (Garrison, n.d.). In addition to using a clearly-written policy for protecting the crime scene, the initial responding officers should designate a specific location for the media. This location should be far from the boundaries of the crime scene in order to avoid unintentional interference with physical evidence. The establishment of a media relations center at a location near the crime scene would help the officers in controlling the scene and monitoring activities around the location.
On the other hand, broadcasting alarms are crucial in this process because they act as means of promoting the safety of individuals at the crime scene. In this case, broadcasting alarms would help the law enforcement department to know when personnel at the scene need immediate help such as emergency. Actually, the initial responding officers use broadcasting alarms to call for emergency when the safety of individuals at the scene is in danger. The alarms can also be used to call for back up or reinforcement in responding to the criminal activity or even ask for firefighter help in case of a fire.
Collecting and Marking Evidence:
The collection and marking of physical evidence at the crime scene is a step that is carried out when processing the scene. This process is carried out by trained personnel whose composition is determined by the kind of criminal act and complexity of the location. The personnel examine the scene to identify the required specialized resources such as additional personnel, forensic needs, and scene security. This is followed by prioritizing the collection of evidence to prevent contamination, loss, or destruction of physical evidence. Notably, the investigators and personnel in charge determine the order in which evidence is collected through a series of steps.
First, they carry out a cautious and systematic evaluation of the crime scene to determine the possibilities of all physical evidence such as latent prints, biological fluids, and trace evidence. Secondly, the investigators focus on easily accessible areas as they progress towards the out-of-view sites. Third, they choose a methodical search pattern for gathering evidence depending on the location and size of the crime scene. Fourth, the investigators should choose a progression of evidence collection techniques in a way that initial methods do not compromise the successive collection techniques ("Crime Scene Investigation," n.d.). In this case, they focus on the most transient evidence as they progress towards less transient ones and proceed from least intrusive to most intrusive evidence collection measures.
Upon completion of processing the crime scene, the investigators should be cautious in their approach for handling evidence by ensuring effective collection, preservation, packaging, and transportation. They should maintain scene security for the entire processing period until it is released while collecting every item identified as evidence. The collected evidence should be marked through documenting its location at the scene, when it was collected, and who collected it. The investigators should also establish a chain of custody for the evidence,…