Thursday, July 31, 2008
For years, police detectives around the country have mocked the miraculous way investigators on hit TV shows such as CSI: Miami ply their trade: Computers instantly identify matching fingerprints, labs return DNA samples in an hour and the crime unit supervisor, Horatio Caine, draws his gun as often as he flashes his badge.
The reality is more tedious: Crime scene investigators crawl around on their knees all day putting scraps of evidence in plastic bags, and technicians spend hours using magnifying glasses to detect the slightest differences between ridges on prints. Weeks pass as DNA tests are carried out at off-site facilities.
Now the very shows that have inflated juries' expectations for swift justice have helped attract the resources needed to modernize crime scene units – they're getting more high-tech equipment and anchoring their staffs with career-oriented specialists. Dallas is about to hire a civilian scientist to head up its crime scene response section for the first time.
"The best evidence is scientific evidence," said Ron Waldrop, Dallas assistant police chief. "Hiring someone with that education specifically is a good thing. It doesn't cost as much to train them. They're more or less there for a career." [Mark Godsey]