Crime Scene Investigations by First Responders Essay
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Crime scenes contain the forensic evidence required to apprehend criminals. The proper collection and processing of physical evidence is of primary importance to most police investigations. Evidence can not only establish the fact of the offense and identify the perpetrator; it may even lead to a conviction. In collecting this evidence we must be conscious of the public’s Fourth Amendment rights and not violate them in this collection of evidence. Unfortunately, poorly conducted crime scene investigations can sometimes either destroy evidence or render it useless.
Law Enforcement should approach the crime scene investigation as if it will be their only opportunity to preserve and recover these physical clues. They should consider other case information or statements from witnesses or suspects carefully in their objective assessment of the scene. Investigations may change course a number of times during such an inquiry and physical clues, initially thought irrelevant, may become crucial to a successful resolution of the case. The primary responsibilities of the first responders to a crime include the following: (1) to preserve life.
If there is any chance that the victim(s) are still alive it is the first responders’ reasonability to render aid to save said life. (2) First responders are to control suspects and witnesses keeping them both close but separate. Once these two objectives have been achieved, the first responders should focus their attention on protecting and preserving the crime scene. The first response to an incident shall be expeditious and methodical. Upon arrival, the officer(s) shall assess the scene and treat the incident as a crime scene. The first responders should note or log dispatch information such as names, address, time, type of call, and any other relevant information. Be aware of any persons or vehicles leaving the crime scene. The importance of preserving the scene and its adjacent areas in their original condition cannot be overemphasized. Approach the scene cautiously, scan the entire area to thoroughly assess the scene, and note any possible secondary crime scenes.
Be aware of any persons and vehicles in the vicinity that may be related to the crime. Remain alert and attentive; assume the crime is ongoing until determined to be otherwise. Also treat the location as a crime scene until assessed and determined to be otherwise. It is usually the uniformed officer who first arrives at the scene of a crime. After controlling any dangerous situations or persons, the first responding officers’ next responsibility is to ensure that medical attention is provided to injured persons while minimizing contamination of the scene. The first responding officer shall ensure that medical attention is provided with minimal contamination of the scene by guiding medical personnel to the victim to minimize contamination or alteration of the crime scene. Point out potential physical evidence to medical personnel, instruct them to minimize contact with such evidence (e.g., ensure that medical personnel preserve all clothing and personal effects without cutting through bullet holes, knife tears), and document movement of persons or items by medical personnel.
Instruct medical personnel not to clean up the scene and to avoid removal or alteration of items originating from the scene. Protecting the evidence typically involves the establishing a perimeter. Only the investigator in charge and those personnel that he gives permission to should be allowed to cross these boundaries this makes it for a more controlled scene. Detectives and supervisors are normally in charge of investigations. There should, however, only be one person in charge of the crime scene itself. The first question that the investigator will ask when they arrives should be something like “Has anyone been allowed to enter the scene?” The investigator should then use whatever resources are available (e.g., barricades or other uniformed officers) to further protect the area. Such measures exclude both curious bystanders and curious officials. Investigators often must turn away any number of officials–both in and out of uniform–who could unintentionally destroy evidence.
Once the area has been secured, the investigator then carries out the duties of search commander. Initially, the commander must obtain the following information: “The time of the arrival of the first officer at the scene, who was present, what was said, and whether or not everything is exactly as it was when the officer arrived” (Dienstein, 1952). Then, the addresses of all persons found on or adjacent to the scene should be collected. Although these people are questioned about their exact location at the time of the crime, they do not usually undergo interrogation on the spot. Rather, such persons are simply removed from the scene and separated: They should not be allowed to talk to each other until each has been carefully questioned and statements have been obtained individuals considered as suspect(s) should be read their Miranda Rights.
Any violation of Fourth Amendment rights could jeopardize any evidence obtained during an interrogation or interview for use in the case at a trial. Crime scene investigation is a complex process. It involves a number of different professionals and various areas of expertise. Only by acting as a team, however, will the members of such a diverse group ensure that their efforts result in a reasonable outcome. The alteration of a crime scene can cause investigators to draw erroneous conclusions. By expeditiously carrying out his responsibilities, the first responders may determine the ultimate outcome of an entire investigation.
Dienstein, William, TECHNIQUES FOR THE CRIME INVESTIGATOR, Springfield, ILL: Charles C. Thomas, 222 pages, 1952 Lyman, Michael D. Criminal Investigation, The Art And The Science. 6. Upper Saddle River , New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc, 2011. Print.