Category Archives: Day in the Life

Guest Post: The Real CSI by K.A. Richardson

Today, my good friend K.A. Richardson is here to tell us about the real CSI. 

As well as being an author, Kerry passed her BSc in Crime Scene Science in 2008, progressing into a CSI role with the police. After working for 2 separate police forces for three years as a CSI, Kerry was redeployed following government cuts and continues to work for the police, though in a different role. 

Kerry keeps her skills and knowledge up to date by going out on jobs with CSIs every now and then so she’s definitely the woman we need to write this post!

Vic x

With Deadly Intent

The world of crime scene investigation can seem very daunting to those whose knowledge consists of what they see on TV. Shows like CSI and NCIS glamorise the role, portraying female CSIs with long flowing locks of hair, high heeled shoes, and smart dress suits, and male CSIs with chiselled appearances, trained to disarm people with a single glance. It shows evidence is always recovered at a scene, fingerprints bring forth identifications virtually instantly, and DNA is obtained without any PPE (personal protective equipment) being worn by the CSI, and almost always has identifications through by the end of the show.

If only it were really like that!

If only real CSIs could get the idents that quick, or even have DNA authorised for submission. This blog is to show a little about the ‘real’ CSI – the men and women out in the field who recover the evidence and help catch the bad guys. 

What is a CSI?

A CSI – Crime Scene Investigator (also known as SOCO – Scenes of Crime Officer) is a civilian who usually works for the police – there are CSIs used by other agencies but I’ll focus primarily on those employed by the police. They are men and women who have either trained to degree level at university, or have done a forensic training course through the police. Some are ex-police officers, some just had a love of investigation and pursued this as their career. They are generally pretty poorly paid for the job they do – as an example the basic start wage for a CSI in the North East is around £17,500 per annum – this does vary slightly with each police force but as a general rule of thumb it provides an accurate overall start wage. It’s not a lot considering the responsibilities the CSI has to forensically recover evidence that could potentially be the turning point in getting people jailed for a crime.

The CSI will be required to work varying hours, participate in on-call rotas, and occasionally have rest days cancelled to facilitate the demand of work. A CSI reports to the CSM – Crime Scene Manager, who in return reports to their supervisor.

What does a CSI do?

A CSI works alongside police officers to facilitate an investigation by recovering evidence from crime scenes, examining property recovered, providing forensic training to probationary police officers, completing paperwork and statements, managing the evidence recovered and submitting this to relevant agencies, completing notes for each scene attended, attending court when required, and a melee of other duties.

They have to drive a van filled with equipment like boxes, recovery pots, evidence bags, ladders, stepping plates, casting kits (for tool marks and footwear marks), DNA test kits, scene suits, gloves, spare powders etc. They must be able to take photographs during the day and night using various techniques to ensure images are taken to a high standard.

Generally a CSI will carry both a camera case, and their ‘kit’ which is usually a case containing various fingerprint powders, swabs, acetates, rulers, evidence recover containers, evidence bags, cellotape, scissors, Stanley knife, brushes galore, and too many other tools to mention. My case was always highly organised – everything had its place and I could cram more than you would think into my silver aluminium case (lots of CSIs use the standard issue black plastic case but I like the aluminium ones better). I also had a folder – which had things like fingerprint elimination sheets, inked acetates, note forms, paper (for diagrams), pens, permanent markers, ruler etc.

PPE is worn in some form or other for all scenes – CSIs have safety boots, and uniform generally consists of combat trousers, polo shirt and jacket. All scenes generally require the CSI to wear at least one pair of nitrile gloves, and if recovering DNA evidence then masks and additional gloves would be worn to prevent contamination. For major scenes such as murders, rapes, serious assaults etc, then scene boot covers, suits and hoods would also be worn.

Most people would presume that CSIs attend lots of murders – that’s what the TV would have you believe. In fact there are a lot less murders than you’d think. The majority of the day for a CSI consists of attending crime scenes such as vehicle break ins, burglaries, cannabis farms, allotment break ins, taking injury photos in the studio for people who have been assaulted, and dealing with property. In the event that a murder occurs, then it’s not a case of everyone running to the scene to assist – CSIs will be allocated, usually with a CSM, and they will attend, wear appropriate PPE, and process the scene accordingly.

A CSI attends and participates in Post Mortem examinations – there are 3 roles within a PM – a photographer who takes images throughout the examination which is conducted by the pathologist, who is generally assisted by the technician. A dirty CSI who takes the evidence recovered from the pathologist and places this into appropriate packaging for the clean CSI who then writes the bags out, seals them, and completes the relevant notes. Most people will never have seen a PM – there are several you tube clips available and some mortuaries are open to observers if requested and authorised by the pathologist. The CSIs attending will be in PPE, including gloves, masks and suits, not just to prevent contamination of evidence, but also because the PM environment can produce biological health hazards.

CSIs generally head out alone to handle the jobs allocated – they have a personal radio, the same as police officers use, to keep in contact with the control room and each other but generally it’s a pretty solitary job. The scenes processed can be spread across the county in which they work, so there’s a lot of driving involved. A CSI will have passed a police vehicle driving course but this doesn’t mean they get to drive with sirens and at high speeds – the CSI vans aren’t equipped with lights and CSIs have to abide by the standard speed laws, the same as everyone else. In a normal 9-10 hour shift, a CSI can potentially deal with 6-8 standard jobs – often more if the jobs involve property examination etc, or less depending of the nature of the jobs allocated. Examining a plastic bag recovered from a suspect which held possible stolen goods, for example, would take hardly any time at all compared to a burglary where every room has been ransacked.

This post is a brief explanation of what a CSI does – my next CSI blog post will be A Day in the Life of a CSI – it’ll be a more in depth look at the techniques used by a CSI as they perform their vital job.

Escape

Birthday realisation

Today, I turn 32. Wow, 32. If you’d have asked me in my teens, 32 was ancient. Teen-me would say 32 year old Vic should have all of her ducks in a row – and then some.

The reality is, I don’t have all my ducks in a row but 32 doesn’t seem so old any more (is this just denial?).

My ducks may not be in a straight line but they are definitely there, I love my writing groups – they’ve developed far beyond I could have imagined and the feedback I get from group members and people who’ve read their work / seen them perform brings me such joy.

I have a tremendously supportive family and friends, I live with a man who knows me better than I know myself (sometimes). I get to write, not as much as I’d like, but I also get to read and travel.

I am trying new things and discovering beauty all around me.

That sounds pretty good to me.

Vic x

Mexican Night

So, I have kept you all waiting to hear how my Mexican Experiment went on Tuesday evening. Don’t fear, I haven’t been avoiding you – nor have I had food poisoning.

My Mexican night was a resounding success. So much so that I barely had time to take photos! My quesadillas were lovely and my brother told me I had made perfect potato wedges: “Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside”. What a compliment!

Unfortunately, though, my mum has it in her head that I am a better cook than she is and is now pestering me to cook more often! So, I am a victim of my own success.

Vic x

Going where I’ve never gone before…

Tomorrow, at the grand old age of twenty-seven years, seven months and four days old I shall attempt something I have never done before. I am cooking the family meal. Ok, of course, I’ve made salads, beans on toast, cheese toasties and even the odd jacket potato but tomorrow I am planning something major: Mexican night!

Usually, if I eat Mexican it’s at a restaurant or The Boy Wonder cooks for me. I know, I’m a lucky girl. Tomorrow, though, I’m taking it upon myself to cook for my mum, dad and younger brother. Now, many of you who read this blog will know that not only am I a picky eater but I am not a domestic goddess. I prefer to spend my time constructively – reading!

So, what’s on the menu?

Well, fajitas. And the worrying thing is, every time someone has attempted to make fajitas in our house for the last twelve months, it has appeared to be the catalyst for some argument in our house. So it is with double trepidation that I plan to cook them. Pray for no conflict! Sadly my brother refuses to eat peppers or onions so that will mean cooking them separately from the chicken. I feel argumentative already….!

Also, I intend to make my own potato wedges. Risky, I know seeing as I am not a domestic goddess in the least. Having been given instructions by TBW, what could possibly go wrong? 

I’m also going to make some cheesy nachos and attempt to make quesadillas.

This experiment is mainly because I fancy a Mexican tomorrow but I know my family will be waiting with bated breath. And possibly the takeaway on speed dial…

Vic x

The photographer who sees a car crash……

This afternoon, I had an interesting encounter. I had arranged to meet a writer friend who I used to go to university with. We decided we’d meet at a local coffee shop off the beaten track for a catch-up. I was so looking forward to the meeting, and not just for coffee and cake! This friend of mine is a prolific script writer and poet and I love hearing her ideas and how she’s progressing. Not to mention she is a jolly good human being to boot.

As I picked a table for two, I noticed an elderly gentleman on the next table, occupying a six seater so I assumed he was waiting for someone. We were literally about three minutes into our catch up when the gentleman turned around and apologised to my companion for coughing as we spoke. My friend, as friendly as always, told him not to worry and that it couldn’t be helped. That was the last time I heard my friend talk for another 57 minutes.

This lovely, sad old gentleman regaled us with tales of his childhood, his marriage and his life as it gained years. He told us about the fascists at the golf club who had told him he was no longer welcome in the communal dining room, about his sailing trips and his inability to stand up to his bully of a father.

He sat and tore strips of toilet paper until he had finished the roll (nerves, perhaps?) whilst telling us about his life and his dreams to be involved in literature. At the grand old age of 92, with all of his faculties still in tact, this man was a marvel. I could have sat and cried as he got choked up telling us about wife and his mother.

Every so often, he would apologise for talking so much but say “I’m so lonely” and I would feel guilty for wishing to have time to talk to my friend. How long was it since he’d had a conversation with someone? We forget how lucky we are.

My friend and I kept catching each other’s eyes and smiling sympathetically until the man asked us what we did. I say we, he was mainly directing the conversation to my friend, and she told him we were writers. To this he responded by asking if we’d be prepared to send him some of our work and so addresses ended up being swapped.

We bid him goodbye and walked to our cars and I felt so relieved as my friend said “It’s like that story of the photographer who sees a car crash and, instead of helping, takes photos. I was listening to him the whole time and thinking ‘This is great material’.” She looked sheepish until I began to laugh and said “Me too!” I guess it’s what was drummed into us during our course – look around, inspiration is everywhere.

I’ve thought about it since I arrived home, how easy it is to take one’s life for granted. In the blink of an eye any one of us could be that old man sitting at the table wondering where his life went.

His final words to us: “I may not write back immediately as I like to go out and have fun. It’s no good if you don’t enjoy life.”

Vic x

My first yoga session.

So, while Britain seemed to be going up in riotous flames, I embarked on the path to spiritual and physical enlightenment: 90 minutes of yoga.

The teacher was very welcoming and pleased to have new members. She was very supportive and told everyone to listen to their bodies and only do what was comfortable.

I was surprised at how strenuous some of it was but I am someone who hasn’t done any exercise in  literally years so perhaps that’s why I found it tough. I found it enjoyable, though, and the people in the class were really friendly.

I’m looking forward to next week.

Vic x

Positive thinking: let’s see if it works…

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday and suggested I try to avoid using words like “shattered”, “no hope” etc. She’s a big believer in Reiki and other spiritual healing, some might call her “kooky” but she’s a very upbeat, positive person who does a lot of positive work for charity.

In my current situation, I have been feeling rather frustrated as I don’t particularly feel like I’m getting any better or stronger and I’m no further forward with a diagnosis than I was five months ago.

However, other things are starting to look up and I need to take comfort from that. I’ve booked some leave from work (granted not until after the New Year but it’s better than nothing) so that The Boy Wonder and I can go on our annual trip to Oman.

I have a book review due to be printed in Closer Magazine (a national magazine in the UK) tomorrow and I’ve sent my details off to a couple more magazines to see if I can get any work with them.

My first guest blog has been uploaded to Close to the Bone today and I’ve had some great feedback off it. http://www.craigrobertdouglas.com/views/bros-before-hos-by-victoria-watson/

So it’s not all bad – gotta look on the bright side, eh? It could be worse, I could be Rebekah Brooks!

Vic x