August 2, 2018
The Problems in Outdoor Crime Scene Investigation
“There’s very few people who can do this job, who should do this job, who want to do this job,” once said by Detective Alan Sandomir, NYPD Special Victims Division. People who can and should do this job are the ones who are capable to work with the easiest and hardest cases of all time. The ones who are prepared to deal with the overnight hours of investigation and solving of the “who, what where and why” they’d done it investigations. Where Tthey are the ones that have to risk their lives to protect the citizens in the community. And the ones who want to do it, are the ones who are willing to help the ones in need. Helping others, to protect and to serve their community. Everyone deals with stress. It’s a no brainer; whether it’s social, personal or emotional stress, we all go through it. However, it’s safe to say that some professions are more stressful than others. On a Rresearch by the University of Buffalo in New York,, found after a decade of studies on police officers, they that boththe men and women in blue are put at risk for high blood pressure, insomnia, increased levels of destructive stress hormones, heart problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) and suicide (Baker). Police officers and detectives, along with emergency responders, have the potential of observing and experiencing some disturbing scenarios, from accidents to mass murder crime scenes. There are many crimes scenes that occur almost every day in our lives that we see on the news; whether it’s in our community or worldwide. In crime scenes, there are three types of crime scenes that are common to police or detectives. They are outdoor, indoor and conveyance. Each one has a level of difficulty, but the one that is most difficult are outdoor crime scenes.
An outdoor crime scene is the most vulnerable to loss, contamination and damaging effects on biological evidence in a brief period. Anyone with access to the scene can potentially change, destroy or contaminate evidence (whether intentionally or accidental). There is a significant risk when the crime scene is not properly secured, whether in an indoor or outdoor investigation. Evidence collection is important in any case and when there when the proper or there is missing evidence, it makes a detective or investigators job a bit harder.
Evidence collection was difficult to put together just like OJ Simpson’s case of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown and friend Ronald Goldman. On Crime Museum, they say that aAn apparent bloody fingerprint was found by Detective Mark Fuhrman, who was one of the first to arrive at the scene, was not collected and entered when it was first located. Yet it was written in his notes, there was no action taken. And the effect of that was that once other detectives took over Fuhrman’s shift, they were never aware of the fingerprint which eventually got lost or destroyed by the time they went back to the scene. Which is why if there is a crime scene case that occurs both indoor and outdoor, it is always best to investigate the outdoor scene to avoid any lost evidence.
On Saturday, May 11, 1996, was saw one of the worst air disasters in South Florida’s history. ValuJet flight 592 was leaving Miami International Airport in route for Atlanta, Georgia, but crashed into the Florida Everglades shortly after takeoff. All 110 passengers and crew aboard were killed. It traveled less than 100 miles of from the airport when the crew reported smoke in the cockpit. The pilot turned around and tried to make it back, which unfortunately caused the jet to crash. Investigators later discovered that many most of the safety equipment were was not improperly secured. Due to the mechanical problems in the jets, investigators later identified three employees from SabreTech, company trusted from ValuJet, who “had a role in mishandling the oxygen generators”, according to the FBI. Two of those employees were pressed charges, but later acquitted. The third employee, Mauro Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes, fled before his trial in 2000. Valenzuela-Reyes had been charged the year before from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department for making false statements and causing the transportation of hazardous materials. Now, after more than two decades, FBI is still in search for Valenzuela-Reyes, the last employee in connection of the ValuJet crash. The handling of a disaster is like handling a major crime scene. The priority in handling a major disaster is to identify, isolate, and secure the site as quickly as possible. The location and terrain are important in formulating a plan of operation. The terrain where the ValuJet landed, is an area that is a dense marshland thick with razor-toothed sawgrass. The sawgrass grows nearly 12 feet tall, had serrated edges, and is rooted in a rich soil known as muck. The muck forms the bed of the everglades. Bio-hazards, chemical hazards, and physical hazards are the type of hazards that can be encountered to an investigation like this one. Safety practices for these exposures of these hazards are necessary for exposure from inhalation, ingestion, skin, eyes and mucous membrane contact. You can expect a combination of any of the three exposure conditions. There is the risk from the decaying flesh, the risk from the fluids and fuel used to control the craft, and the terrain, wildlife, and various other natural obstacles associated with the environment in which they were dealing with. There can always be a point in the investigation where evidence cannot be protected under the conditions of natural disasters or other environmental issues should be collected as quickly as possible. To every problem there is a solution (sometimes). Indoor and outdoor crime scene or investigations, there is a procedure that is needed to be followed. During the scene, the investigators in charge are responsible to avoid contaminating the scene. The investigator in charge or back-up can cause the change in evidence which could mess up the investigation. Preparing preliminary documentation to make notes on every important detail. To not make the same mistake that Detective Fuhrman did during the investigation on the killings of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. It is also important to identify and protect fragile and/or lasting evidence. Such as, climate conditions and/or hostile environment. Lastly, and a common solution is to ensure that all the evidence collected is immediately collected. Evidence collection was difficult during the ValuJet investigation, since the plane crashed in the Everglades, most evidence such as bodies or even pieces of the planes weren’t recovered due to the climate; which can affect the evidence. Every note, interrogation, photograph, important documentation must be secured. Just like we curiously go to a fortune-teller with the magic crystal ball and ask, “What does my future look like?”. Now, what would the life of an everyday detective be like in the next 10 years? Would they have to follow the same procedures or would advanced technology take over? For sure it’s no doubt that technology has changed most of our ways of life. Through our cars, phones, computers, almost anything. Imagine if our world was holographic. We love watching 3-D movies, why not make everything 3-D? Many criminal prosecutions such as murder, car accidents and others, we can present what type of weapon was used, a vehicles motion and bloody-spatter pattern based on what we have through our computers. Now, imagine you were part of the jury in the courtroom and you were to see virtual-reality holograms in the middle of the courtroom to watch a recreation of how the crime occurred. We are familiar with 3-D when it comes to movies and television. So why not create it in the real world? In the U.K., there is a tool that is being used mainly for traffic incidents. FARO has developed a 3-D scanner that can record each element of a crime scene in punctilious detail. It is apparently “highly capable” of recording more severe crime scenes, such as homicide. The scanner can calculate bullet trajectories, human height, and has blood splatter analysis technology. It can also demonstrate the perspective of both victim and offender. Each part of a scene is recorded for about five and a half minutes, which makes the scanner more efficient than other tools such as video cameras and tape measures. Once the scanner has recorded images, it is able to project in the courtroom. The creators of FARO hope that its technology will allow police worldwide to put together a better picture of a crime scene and for jurors to make better-informed decisions. The main advantage of these scanners is that once the data is recorded, you can go back to the recording as many times as you like. It is also meant that even the unimportant things that might not even be as significant as other details of evidence, can be revisited again. FARO representative David Southam said, “There might be additional things we add to the scanner which might add to the way the police work. Maybe a combination of other technologies with 3-D scanning”.
Currently, laser lighting is used to amplify fingerprint and tool marking evidence. It also looks at old electron-scanning comparison microscopes that are being replaced by laser or laptop examiners; like the BulletTrax-3D makes the peaks and valleys of a ballistic engraving show up like satellite ground mapping radar images. The BulletTrax-3D is the latest technological evolution from FTI (Forensic Technology, Inc.) and is designed to address the comparison needs of the forensic firearms examiner. It allows the examiner to conduct preliminary correlations prior to actual microscopic comparisons. This system includes the following: A confocal microscope (where two microscopes are used to examine the same region of an object from opposite sides of the object) designed to simultaneously gather two and three dimensional images of bullet surface topography, a digital camera to capture the data, an automated bullet holder to physically manipulate bullets, including damaged bullets, it has computer hardware and proprietary software to manage image capture, transmission and storage on a computer server. This system expands its capabilities from criminal cases to a broader scope that includes terrorist activities.
In crime scenes, there are three types of crime scenes that are common to police or detectives. They are outdoor, indoor and conveyance. Each one has a level of difficulty, but the one that is most difficult are outdoor crime scenes. There has been an issue with outdoor investigations due to loss or contamination on evidence. Evidence collecting is a main key while investigating a scene. Many mistakes can be occurred in a blink of an eye. But the responsibility of a police officer or detective is to make sure that it doesn’t occur. To make sure that all evidence is secured and documented, ready-to-go when they face jurors in the courtroom. With other procedures that they must follow during an investigation, would they cope with it in the next 10 years? Will technology take over and will it build a less stressful environment for police officers and detectives? But once said by Detective Alan Sandomir, NYPD Special Victims Division, “There’s very few people who can do this job, who should do this job, who want to do this job”. The ones who will risk their lives to protect and serve the community.
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“Outdoor Crime Scene.” Module 06 :: Toolmarked Items. National Institute of Justice, n.d. Web. 29 July 2018. <https://projects.nfstc.org/property_crimes/module02/pro_m02_t02.htm>.
Rodgers, Garry. “Five Future Breakthroughs in Forensic Technology.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 23 Nov. 2016. Web. 30 July 2018. <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/garry-rodgers/five-future-breakthroughs_b_8633172.html>.