Master Sergeant Hayden B. Baldwin, Retired
Illinois State Police
Bureau of Crime Scene Services
created September 1990



The scientific examination of physical evidence is well recognized as a critical element in police efforts to conduct successful criminal investigations and prosecutions1. The forensic science field is an ever changing discipline. With the advent of DNA, new processing techniques for latent prints, portable lasers, and elector-static dust print lifters, the training of evidence technicians has become more important than ever. These scientific and technology breakthroughs have increased the possibility of collecting and analyzing physical evidence that was never possible before. The problem arises with the collection of physical evidence from the crime scene not by the analysis of the evidence. The need for specialized units in the processing of all crime scenes is imperative. These specialized units called crime scene units should be trained and equipped to handle all forms of crime scenes. The crime scene units would have the capability to professionally evaluate and collect pertinent physical evidence from the crime scenes. 

The 1967 President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice issued a report stating that many of the police departments throughout the country have not developed an adequate evidence recovery program2. Since the time of that report most large cities and metropolitan areas have their own professionally trained crime scene units. The problem of the substandard evidence collection lies with the suburban and rural communities. In most police agencies the evidence from a crime scene is collected and processed by the patrol officer or the investigator3. These officers usually have a multitude of job functions and develop "tunnel vision", resulting in the loss of potential evidence4. They are usually overworked by attempting multiple tasks at the crime scene and they are undertrained in the current techniques of proper evidence identification and collection. The ideal solution to this problem is a separate and highly trained crime scene unit. A majority of the agencies do not have the resources to man and fully equip a separate crime scene unit. Not only are they lacking the resources but they are usually lacking the criminal activity to warrant a full time dedicated crime scene unit. 

According to the 1988 UAR report there is an average of 1.6 police officers per 1,000 population in cities that have a population of 25,000 or less5. Eighty eight percent of the agencies in the United States have a population of less than 25,000. Therefore, most agencies do not have the personnel to designate solely as crime scene technicians. The UAR report also indicates that these same agencies have 1/10 the amount of violent crimes as do the metropolitan areas. The Chief of Police or Sheriff would not be able to justify the use of their resources for such a unit if his department does not have a large amount of violent crimes. 

Not only salary and equipment play a role in the expenditures, there is also the training involved. Reduced competency comes with the insufficient activity for the crime scene technician and the collection of evidence will suffer. 

How can these agencies acquire highly trained full time crime scene technicians to assist their investigators at the crime scenes? There are two methods that can be developed to accomplish this task. The first method would have the state or county crime scene technicians process all crime scenes for the requesting agency. The requesting agencies would be any law enforcement agency within that county or state. A system could be incorporated where the state or county crime scene technicians would respond to the requesting agency at little or no cost. These crime scene technicians would be highly trained and probably would have the newest equipment to handle all forms of evidence at the crime scenes. 

The disadvantages to this method are usually jurisdictional tendencies and they would only respond to major crime scenes. A policy would need to be incorporated to allow the requesting agency to be the investigating agency and the assisting crime scene technician's agency to act as a service agency. 

The second method would use a multiple agency task force consisting of several trained crime scene technicians. These technicians would then respond to any agency within the task force area and work with the corresponding agency's investigators. This method has been used in Illinois with excellent results. A single crime scene technician was able to handle all the crime scenes for a four county area. In return the agencies in the counties would pool their resources and pay for his salary, equipment, and regular updated training. 

The disadvantages to this method are the availability of the crime scene technician and his response time to the crime scene. If the technician is working another case in an adjoining community how timely could he respond? If two calls for his service came in together, which case would take priority? This is only a few of the problems that would arise, but they can all be worked out if the agencies think of the technician as part of their team. 
The interest of law enforcement can only be served by crime scene units available nationwide. The forecast of future needs for expert crime scene work is still by the highly trained crime scene technicians who have the knowledge and equipment to thoroughly process a crime scene. Physical evidence has not changed in the last 50 years, only the interpretation of the evidence by forensic scientists and trained crime scene technicians has changed. The forensic scientists have developed more in-depth analysis of the evidence with training and better equipment. The crime scene technician has elevated his profession by becoming certified through the International Association for Identification and continually receives updated training in the evaluation, preservation and collection of physical evidence. 

This nationwide service can be handled by the state police agencies across the nation. This nationwide service would provide uniform and quality crime scene processing to all law enforcement agencies. The citizens of this country would be better served because there would be no discrimination to the type of service or quality of service provided. All citizens and agencies would receive the same benefits, a maximum effort with minimum cost of resources. 

The Illinois State Police has set the standard of the future by developing a mobilized force of crime scene units. Under the Illinois State Police Organization this unit is separated from the uniform and investigative divisions by being a part of the Division of Forensic Services and Identification. Under this division, the Bureau of Crime Scene Services is headed by a Bureau Chief. The Bureau Chief is responsible for the overall activities of the bureau. Under his command is an Assistant Bureau Chief, who is responsible for the day to day operations of the bureau. Four Crime Scene Field Supervisors report directly to the Assistant Bureau Chief. These four field supervisors supervise 22 crime scene technicians composed of sworn Troopers, Investigators and Inspectors. They are responsible for the processing of all crime scenes meeting the criteria of the Illinois State Police. This criteria simply states that the crime scene technicians will respond to all crime scenes upon the request from any law enforcement agency in the State of Illinois. They are a service organization that will provide, free of charge, the services of their well trained crime scene unit. This service is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. 

In order to provide this service, the Illinois State Police has met stringent demands for top quality personnel. Each applicant for a position as a crime scene technician must possess investigative talents and pass an oral interview. After being selected for this position, the officer must complete 720 hours of basic crime scene processing provided by in-house training throughout the state of Illinois. Once he has passed this training, he is sent to several areas of the state where he must ride and work with several experienced crime scene technicians. He is then returned to his assigned duty area where he will work with his mentor until certified to be on his own. 

Once this technician has completed the above training he is then sent to advanced training schools where he will receive additional training in blood spatter, arsons, and death investigations. 

The state crime scene technician is carefully monitored by his supervisor, mentor, and fellow technicians for a period of one year. After this training is completed, he is off probation and will be monitored, as all the other technicians are, by their field supervisor. 

The field supervisor is also responsible for conducting external evaluations. These evaluations are made by contacting the law enforcement agencies the technicians has processed scenes for and soliciting their comments and/or criticism on the work performed. Using this external evaluation and the internal evaluations by the supervisor the Bureau is able to check the quality of work. Besides having a unique resource for personnel, the Bureau supplies the technicians with up-to-date equipment. This equipment is not just issued to the technician but he also receives individual training on each piece of equipment issued. This system has received high praise from prosecutors and law enforcement agencies from the city, county, state, and federal levels. Illinois State Police has proven the system will work and the future of crime scene units is here now. 

In the classical text "Police Administration" printed in 1950, O. W. Wilson writes about the need for a specialist in evidence gathering6. He stressed that the first critical step of using evidence in the investigation of crimes is that of the evidence technician. Here it is forty years later and there has been many books written on the subject of evidence collection and processing the crime scenes. All law enforcement officers know the value of physical evidence, this is not where the problem lies. The problem existed then as it does now, where do we find the resources and training required to have a professional process the crime scene? 
Most law enforcement agencies in the United States do not have the manpower or equipment required to adequately process a crime scene. There is a need to find alternatives to this problem. Two of the alternatives have been explained in this paper. They are: 

      1. Have the state police or county crime scene units available to all law
          enforcement agencies in their area. 

      2. Have adjoining agencies pull their resources and form a multi agency
          crime scene unit task force. 

It is believed these two alternatives would offer solutions to a nationwide law enforcement problem. There may be other viable alternatives, however, the two methods offered here seem to be the most likely to meet with success. That success is a nationwide crime scene search and processing system that serves the best interests of the criminal justice system and the citizens we are sworn to protect. 



1. James Jones and Joseph Peterson, Evidence Technician Program Manual, 
  (New York: L.E.N., 1978), p. 1 

2.  Ibid., p. 3 

3.  Barry A.J. Fischer, Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, 
 (New York; Elsivier, 1987), p. 32 

4.  Richard Saferstein, Criminalistics, an Introduction To Forensic Science, 
 (New York: Prentice Hall, 1990), p. 41 

5  Uniform Crime Report, (Department of Justice, 1989), P. 227 

6. Journal of Forensic Identification, (International Association for Identification, 
 Volume 40 Number 1) 

7.  Policy and Procedures Manual, (Illinois State Police, Bureau of Crime Scene Services,  1990), Directive BCSS ADM 003 

8. Ibid 1., p. 2 


Fischer, Barry A.J. Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation 
 New York, New York: Elsivier Science Publishing Co., Inc. 1987 

Jones, James  Evidence Technician Program, New York:, L.E.N., 1987 

Journal of Forensic Identification Sept/October 1989 

Policy and Procedures Manual, Springfield, Illinois: Illinois State 
 Police, Bureau of Crime Scene Services, July, 1990 

Saferstein, Richard Criminalistics, an Introduction to Forensic 
 Science, New York, New York; Prentice Hall, 1990 

Uniform Crime Report Department of Justice, August 1989 

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