Investigating a crime scene is an extremely tricky job. Along with scouring the scene for – sometimes minute – pieces of evidence; the police must also collect, preserve and then use this evidence to come to a conclusion about the crime. So, how do they do this? The answer, is via crime scene investigators.
What is a crime scene investigator?
Crime scene investigators, also known as Scenes of crime officers (SOCOs), work alongside the police, to help solve crime. They are responsible for collecting and then processing key evidence. This can then be used in forensic and post-mortem analysis. Crime scene investigators are generally employed by the police/constabulary itself. Many of the largest UK police forces employ a large number of scenes of crime officers. A crime scene investigator will spend the majority of their time attending investigations. However, they may also spend time back at police headquarters/divisional constabularies.
Key Crime Scene Investigator Requirements
TV gives the impression that scenes of crime officers are constantly attending murder scenes. While murder is a big part of the job, scenes of crime officers also attend a variety of other crime scenes, including burglary, arson, vandalism and sexual offences. In order to do their job successfully, the crime scene investigator requirements include:
- Responding to calls from police officers.
- Collecting and processing evidence from crime scenes.
- Taking photographs of crime scenes.
- Preventing crime scenes from becoming contaminated.
- Taking fingerprints from victims and suspects.
- Producing written reports based on their findings.
- Giving evidence in court.
Along with all of this, you absolutely must be someone who is emotionally capable of doing the job. Crime scene investigators will encounter scenes where horrific events have occurred. If you can’t handle this, then this isn’t the right job for you.
Crime scene investigator qualifications
The entry requirements for crime scene investigators varies, depending on the force that you are applying to. Some may ask for more qualifications, some may ask for less, but the following is generally true for all forces:
- You won’t need a degree to apply for the role; but a science based degree (or forensics) could be extremely useful.
- You will be expected to have high grades at GCSE, and A Level.
- You will need to be able to demonstrate your photography skills, meaning that a photography qualification is extremely beneficial.
- You must be able to demonstrate that you have good (colour) vision.
Remember that while having a degree and other such qualifications isn’t an essential for the crime scene investigator requirements, the majority of serious candidates applying for the job will have these already. This will give them a massive advantage, so you need to do everything that you possibly can to level the playing field.
So, now that we’ve looked at the crime scene investigator qualifications, and the expectations you’ll need to meet, let’s take a look at the core competencies. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it simply refers to the key behavioural expectations of someone working as a crime scene investigator. These behavioral expectations will be key, both during your application to the role, and your time working in the role.
Able to cope with pressure and difficult situations. It’s essential that you are able to manage your emotions when working in this position. Crime scene investigators are required to investigate murder scenes, where the dead bodies have been left behind, and this can be quite distressing. It’s essential that you are able to keep a cool head, and perform to the best of your ability, regardless of how terrible the scene that you are investigating might be.
Attention to detail. To fulfill the crime scene investigator requirements, you will need impeccable attention to detail. Crime scene investigators need to be able to spot the things that nobody else would spot, and then process and analyse this information. You need to be absolutely meticulous in your ability to spot tiny clues. Every piece of information that you can glean from a crime scene, will help to solve the wider puzzle.
Problem solving ability. Most of the time, the answer to a crime won’t just fall into your lap. Crime is a puzzle to be solved, and crime scene investigators are an imperative part of this process. You won’t just need to collect and process evidence, but you’ll need to think in great detail about what you have seen; and form ideas on what you think might have happened. The more logical you are, the better job you can offer the constabulary for which you are working, and the better you can adhere to the crime scene investigator requirements.
Communication skills. Good communication skills are an imperative part of working as a crime scene investigator. As mentioned, many forces will employ a number of crime scene investigators at any one time, meaning that you might even be part of a team of investigators working on one case. There will often be a huge number of different departments and teams from the constabulary working on the same case. In order to solve a crime, it’s essential that all of these components and different parts/units come together and communicate.
Furthermore, it’s not just about verbal communication. Crime scene investigators are required to file numerous written reports based on what they’ve found, and the conclusions that they have reached. This could be really important, especially if these notes are later used in court, so it’s imperative that you can communicate well in written form too. Demonstrating your ability to use concepts such as grammar during the application process will go a long way to helping you secure the role.