Message from the Chief Commissioner

Is Forensic Science really like the television show CSI?

Release date: Tue 22 January 2013

Last updated: Mon 13 February 2017

Forensics Crime Scene

How is it similar?
Some of the scientific techniques and results are based on reality and the close-ups of items shown are also usually realistic.

How is it different?
The TV program also shows other techniques and results that are not common or realistic: it has been estimated that only 60% of the tests are based on reality. Real forensic staff are specialists in one area, (i.e. they are not experts in every field as seen on TV). The real analysis time is often longer than depicted on television and can take from hours to days.

The duties as shown on "CSI" are a combination of different specialists as performed in Victoria.

Role 1 Detective
A detective (not the crime scene examiner) is really the investigator in a case. The detective will be the first called to a scene by the Uniform member. Detectives then call out the appropriate forensic and other services (e.g. Dog Squad). The forensic callout services include:

  • Major Crime Scene
  • Ballistics
  • Microscopy (Gunshot Residue)
  • Fingerprints
  • Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
  • Clandestine Drug Laboratories
  • Fire and Explosion Investigation
  • Botany Unit (Cannabis crops)
  • Identification of biological material
  • CBR/Disaster Victim Identification

The detective investigates the case using information from any forensic services and also from interviewing of witnesses, victims and suspects and following lines of enquiry.

Role 2 Major Crime Scene Examiner
For a complex and serious scene, one or more Major Crime Scene Examiners record, search, interpret the scene and collect items for examination. The scene is recorded using notes, sketches, photos, videorecording and scale drawings. They may also request other forensic experts to attend.

Role 3 Crime Scene Officer
For non complex and less serious scenes, a Crime Scene Officer who is attached to the local police region can process the scene, including photography, development and recording of fingerprints and collecting exhibits.

Role 4 Property officers
If collected by non FSD staff, the exhibits are logged and stored at the police station and then delivered to FSD for examination. If collected by FSD staff, the items are logged at FSD then allocated to the relevant specialist areas for examination and analysis. Only a few (such as shoeprints) would be retained for examination by the Major Crime Scene Examiner

Role 4 Forensic Scientist
The forensic scientist will ascertain the appropriate tests and perform these and provide the results to the police member who is the investigator for the case. Depending on the circumstances some scientists may also attend the initial crime scene.

Television shows like CSI have raised the profile of forensic science and its use and importance in crime investigation. However (unfortunately!) there are no jobs available in Australia like those depicted on CSI. It shows a combination of duties performed by crime scene investigators, forensic scientists, detectives and others.

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