Beyond bagging and tagging — An empirical investigation into the roles, designations and responsibilities of crime scene practitioners

Mehzeb Chowdhury*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study proposes a comprehensive, scalable guide which police forces may use to advertise and recruit crime scene staff on a universal standard, as opposed to setting force-specific requirements. It also investigates the validity of staff descriptors such as ‘examiner’, ‘SOCO’, ‘analyst’ and ‘investigator’ and whether such classifications warrant continued existence. Using published crime scene job postings and internal human resource documentation from thirty-five (35) United Kingdom police forces, scene staff qualification requirements and their assigned responsibilities were collated. The main functions of scene practitioners were found to involve six (6) key aspects: (1) operational support; (2) police organisation and forensic intelligence support; (3) administrative support; (4) community support; (5) organisational support; and (6) investigative support. The study found a major misconception in the understanding of the roles and responsibilities of crime scene practitioners as merely evidence collectors with purely evidence-based functions. The data indicated that the duties were significantly more dynamic, requiring critical thinking. Forces consistently emphasized the need for an ability to adapt to unknown scenarios, react with an open mind and problem-solve using reasoning and thought. Scene staff were expected to be victim based, their approach geared towards assisting victims to cope with crime, advising them as to the next steps forward, and consoling witnesses. Key discoveries were made about the role of scene staff as community support actors, and that role-fulfilment involved not just scientific knowledge but also legal and investigative comprehension. Insights were gained on the move towards professionalisation of crime scene staff and the associated obstacles. Evidence of widespread and jurisdiction-wide discrepancy in definitions, roles and responsibilities, police status (whether they were officers or civilians) and classification of scene practitioners under official staffing data, prompted recommendations on unification of standards and redefinition of staff roles and their vocational boundaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
JournalScience and Justice
Volume61
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

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