1) Evidence collection can be the single most crucial process in an investigation. The evidence collection process is the foundation of the case. Evidence must be adequately photographed, collected, and documented. One of the fathers of forensic science, Edmond Locard, had a principle that states that every contact leaves a trace. Once evidence is touched, moved, or disturbed, it is never the same (Horswell, J., & Fowler, C. 2004.)
Due to the importance of evidence collection, a trained individual in crime scene management is key to obtaining evidence properly and collecting the most important evidence that could lead to solving the case.
A crime scene unit is a massive advantage in many ways. People in crime scene units are trained civilians and law enforcement officers in the field of forensics (Gehl, R. and Plecas, D. 2017.) They know what to look for in different types of crimes due to their training and experience. A patrol officer may not know what to look for and will most likely not have the proper equipment to look for certain types of evidence. Another advantage is that the crime scene unit can manage the scene while the investigator now has time to talk to witnesses, offenders, write search warrants, etc. An investigator for a smaller agency doesn’t have the luxury of having someone work the crime scene. The lead investigator now has to manage/ work the crime scene, talk to witness, develop leads, write search warrants, and many other things. With all of these tasks, it is easy to miss a step in the evidence collection process. One final advantage is straightforward, proper documentation. Often patrol officers skip steps when it comes to documenting evidence. This is because they do not know the importance of adequate documentation. Chain of custody can be a deal-breaker in a case in court. Crime scene techs know how to document the chain of custody properly and know the proper forms to fill out for different types of evidence examinations.
With all the positives of evidence collection units, it is still impossible for most police departments to have this option. To ensure that a department’s investigators are qualified to manage a scene, they must be sent to trainings such as the National Forensic Academy or the TBI State Academy. These are options for the departments that can’t provide units dedicated to evidence collection. Also, patrol officers should be trained in basic crime scene management to preserve a scene properly until an investigator arrives. It is a patrol officer’s second nature to determine a victim, but it is not their second nature to determine pertinent physical evidence at a crime scene (Hawthorne, M. R. 1998.) Proper schooling and training could help make this a second nature.
2) “Evidence -collection unit dispatches specially trained personnel to the crime scene to collect and preserve physical evidence that will later be processed at the crime laboratory”. Evidence-Collection generally begins with trained police officers, that’s usually a plus because these officers are familiar with the protocol and laws, all their needing to do is get trained for the specific area they are in. It states that every officer is usually engaged in different areas that they have to process evidence for laboratory examination. This department also must handle all body fluids and biologically stained materials with a minimum of personal contact.
This is new to me only because I didn’t necessarily know that there were special units for each part in forensic or policing
“Patrol officer or detective is charged with collecting the evidence” Where the officer effectiveness in the role depends on the extent of his or her training and working relationship with the lab. Pros would be that training can improve the preservation of evidence, such as educating patrol officers on the necessity. I would say that the cons would be the training while being on the clock.