In an organized step by step approach “Scene Documentation” is one of the stages in the proper processing of a crime scene. The final results of a properly documented crime scene are the ability of others to take the finished product to use in either reconstructing the scene or the chain of events in an incident and our court room presentation.
In documenting the scene there are actually three functions or methods used to properly document the crime scene. Those methods consist of written notes which will ultimately be used in constructing a final report, crime scene photographs, and a diagram or sketch. Consistency between each of these functions is paramount. Each method is important in the process of properly documenting the crime scene.
The notes and reports should be done in a chronological order and should include no opinions, no analysis, or any conclusions; just the facts. The crime scene investigator or evidence recovery technician should document what they see, not what they think. The final report should tell a descriptive and factual story.
A general description of the crime scene should be given just as the investigator sees it when she does the initial walk through of the scene. Each department or agency has a method which they use will for written documentation of the crime scene. There investigator or technician should follow her departments assigned procedures for written documentation. The importance of sharing information can never be over-looked.
This article is intended to share ideas in the area of uniform documentation as an example of the format that is used by my department. We use a narrative section of the report divided it into five categories. The categories are the summary, the scene including a detailed body description if in a death investigation, processing, and evidence collected, and the pending that may be collected at another date or time.
The summary would to basically give the details of how he was initiated into the investigation. For an example: “At the request of Robbery Detective H. Granier, this writer was requested to respond to assist in processing the scene of an armed robbery involving 4 unknown masked subjects.
Detective H. Granier’s preliminary investigation revealed that the subjects startled the victim as she returned home from shopping”. For further details of this investigation refer to Detective H. Granier. Our summary is brief and does not include a lot of the said information (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/unavailable/)
The investigator in charge should obtain the following for the crime scene case file:
1. Initial responding officer documentation.
2. Emergency medical personnel documents.
3. Entry and exit documentation.
4. Photographs and any videos.
5. Crime scene sketches and diagrams.
6. Evidence documentation.
7. Other responders’ documentation.
8. Record of consent form or search warrant.
9. Criminal background check
Reports such as forensic or technical reports should be added to this file when they become available. This will ensure that reports and other documentation pertaining to the crime scene investigation are compiled into a case file by the investigator in charge of the crime scene and allow for independent review of the work conducted. In the scene section of the narrative we should give a detailed description of the scene as it is seen when we approach the area.
The scene description usually includes anything that is unusual and out of place. Any weather or environment conditions are also included. Again this is a description of what we see, not what we think. The evidence that should observe is: its location, the condition, or anything about the item will be included in our scene description section. This would also correspond to any identification markers used to number or label the items of evidence.
These remarks would all be consistent with any numbers, letters, or labels indicated in the photographs, or drawn into a sketch of the scene (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/unavailable/).
The processing section is for our units to describe what we did, if assistance was needed during the processing stages, who we had assisting, and what functions they did. The evidence collection section is to organize what evidence we and others assisting were able to recover from the crime scene, where the items were recovered from, and what part of the lab the items were directed to for analysis. Criminal History
A Criminal History Summary often referred to as a criminal history record or a “rap sheet” is a listing of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service.
If no Criminal History Summary on file, the investigator will receive a response indicating that the person has no prior arrest data on file. If the person does have a criminal history Summary on file, you will receive your summary”. Pending Section
The pending section would be for any known tasks that would need to be completed at a later date or time in the investigation. What is turned in to the Department?
1. A written report
2. Crime scene photographs
3. Crime scene sketch
Crime Scene Example Final Report:
Medical Examiner/Medical Summary:
Cause of Death:
Manner of Death:
Crime Scene Summary:
Write a narrative about the crime scene. This is a summary of what you observed at the scene. You do not make hypothesis or draw conclusions.
Evidence Log Summary:
Note: Attach Completed Evidence Collection Log to the end of this report. Image Inventory:
Draw conclusions based on the evidence gathered. Be as complete as possible.
This list is limited to crime scene documentation. This should not be considered a comprehensive list of the documents involved in an investigative case file In conclusion, the final results of a properly documented crime scene are the ability of others to take the finished product to use in either reconstructing the scene or the chain of events in an incident and our court room presentation.