The following basic procedures enables to discover the scene efficiently and accurately.
Ways to discover the Scene
Most likely, the authorities have been informed by an everyday citizen who may have seen or heard something unusual/strange occurring and decided to report it, however police officers also come across crime scenes whilst on patrol in their designated area. Whether it is a police officer or an Emergency assistant who answers the emergency calls, the details of the potential crime scene are recorded and patrolling officers closest to the scene are arranged to head over to the situation.
What to do on the arrival of the scene
Once officials arrive at the scene of crime, the first and foremost priority of a police officer is to assist or preserve the life of the victim (if one is present), making sure that he/she is not exposed to any danger. The officer does however, have to ensure that his/her own safety is not endangered during this process. They are then to alert senior investigating officers, reporting on the situation of the crime scene and subsequently notify ambulances and the fire department if necessary. The time of arrival on the scene must essentially be noted down as well as all other significant observations. Whilst doing all this, the officer must take care not to touch or move anything.
The Extent of the Crime
Officers must also assess the extent of the crime scene, which is the stretch of area in which the crime took place and may include more than one section. For example, in the case of a murder, there may be evidence not only where the murder was committed, but also in other parts of the murder environment and the scene where the corpse is found may not correspond to the actual scene of murder. If the body were transported elsewhere, then the mode of transport and the other locations would also become a significant part of the investigation.
Sealing The Scene
Sealing the crime scene is ultimately essential to protect any evidence it contains, for the more people that visit the crime scene, the more difficult it becomes for investigators. Not only does sealing the scene preserve important evidence, but it also helps in the identification of potential suspects/witnesses by eliminating the possibility of these people leaving/entering before officials have the scene fully detailed. The section that has to be sealed depends on the individual crime and the crime environment, but the sealed off area should be big enough to enclose not only the immediate area of the crime, but also the points of possible entry and exit.
The section then becomes accessible only to the relevant personnel involved with the case. This method makes it much easier to manage the crime scene, as it provides a protected zone for incident vehicles and also for dealing with the media. To prevent evidence contamination, personnel numbers are kept to a minimum at the scene of the crime and only one entry and exit access point is established to be utilised by all forensic and scene investigators. A log of everyone who visits the scene is kept, including arrival and departure times and any evidence shifted/taken from its original place. This is to ensure that ‘evidence tampering’ does not become an issue while in court.
The Witnesses and Suspects
Potential witnesses and suspects are detained and removed from the scene by police officers to be searched and questioned. Their condition, statements and behaviour are all documented for further analysis later into the investigation. The police must also ensure that suspects are not allowed to return to the scene of the crime before it has fully documented, in order to prevent ‘evidence tampering’. Suspects may be held at the police station for a certain period of time (varying for each state) during which the scene is analysed and sealed off. At the same time witnesses at the scene are detained and separated from one another up until they have given statements and it is then at this point, that witnesses are free to go. This procedure is put in place to prevent the witnesses discussing what they each saw and prevents one’s recollections of the incident being influenced by the ideas of another.
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