Real-World Crime Scene Investigation: A Step-By-Step Procedure Manual

Author  Gabriele Suboch, PhD

Edition  illustrated

Publisher             CRC Press LLC, 2016

ISBN      1498707440, 9781498707442

Length  416 pages

This hardback book has been printed from a United States perspective. The book is laid out into chapters covering many different facets of crime scene investigation with the first chapter titled “Tools of the trade”. This then lists the duties of a crime scene investigator before actually going into some of the tools that you might need in your role of a CSI.

These tools include documentation, evidence collection, and developing kits for different types of evidence recovery, for instance fingerprints and bloodstains.

One of the items this book says you should have in your kit is a pencil. I disagree, as a crime scene investigator your notes are a true and accurate record of the crime scene and as such should always be in pen to maintain transparency and show that they are contemporaneous.

It could possibly be argued that you could use it for a sketch plan because you can then rub out any mistakes and correct it but this is a crime scene, your sketch plan is a rough plan of the crime scene with accurate measurements drawn at the scene. It is a true and accurate record and any mistakes should be recorded as a mistake the same as if it was a written word, you don’t scribble out because you want transparency so should a pencil be in your kit?

Another item under note taking is in chapter 1.2.2. This is a digital voice recorder and while these are very good at crime scenes (and I see the value of them) it’s about producing the evidence in court. So unless you are going to be able to secure the evidence which is that digital transcript of the recording should you be using it in the scene?

It is digital in the same way as digital photographs or video and any interview testimony recorded during interview. In my humble opinion it should not used because it needs to be reproduced and secured in a true and accurate way for the court. It is just the same as your notes, when you go into crime scene you record your notes the same way police officer records theirs. A true and accurate reflection of what happened, what you saw, your observations, your thoughts, everything so to that end I believe a digital voice recorder, while it is useful is not necessarily something that needs to be in your kit.

Items that you would need include cameras, notebooks, rulers, compass, GPS devices to get coordinates, north pointer and all those types of things that you would use. The book does list these and describes items such as PPE very well.

The book does have illustrations and pictures of some of the equipment and it appears most pictures come from and with the permission of Tritech Forensics. This book describes the kits made by this firm and how to use them.  It would benefit from some equipment being listed not in kit form as in the UK we have kits and we also have the suppliers who are able to deliver individual items.

In the chapter dealing with evidence collection kits it lists chemicals including bluestar, amido black and others.  The book does give different types of processes to be used in different circumstances with the appropriate devices or chemicals.

Chapter 2 details forensic photography and gives some lists of what items might be required with a camera, and how to use them. The book does give detailed instructions into different types of photographic situation with guidance and tips of how to achieve the best images.

The book is laid out well in that it’s very easy to read and offers up some tips for things like night photography. Painting with light and filling the frame, shutter speed and shutter priority, some good depth of field examples and also there are some good descriptions of specialised photography both on the scene, and in the laboratory.

Each chapter provides good clear pictures some of which are coloured, but most are black-and-white. The book is American orientated with case reviews from US legal cases and but it does give the reader things to think about.  The fact this book leans towards US case law is not an issue as it will invite the reader to think and this is the idea behind it.

Chapter 3 is about impression pattern evidence and as I turned the first page there are descriptions of patterns. The ones talked about include loops whorls and arches etcetera and then on the next page it has some fantastic pictures of those types of fingerprint patterns but only three types.

The chapter goes on to describe types of fingerprints found in crime scenes, and again a US focus is placed on the case law as well as the ways to recover the impressions. The book does not follow the advice given by our own CAST documentation and should be used with caution in the UK.

There are some good descriptions of using different types of chemical but is not an exhaustive list and of course we use the fingerprint visualisation manual but this book does give some other types of lifting advice such as ESDA and ESLA.

The book uses the same type of layout for the remaining chapters and all paperwork reproduced in the book is from the US. This makes it unusable for UK practitioners in the regards of documentation used, but the policies and procedures to actually carry out the work appear to be good.

There are some very good examples and methods for mapping and sketching the crime scene and the book also describes different search patterns you can use. Again a good reminder to anyone that there are different ways to work.

In the book it describes how to package evidence. This could be problematic if anyone used these guidelines as theirown force policies may dictate what you should be doing. Also the ones listed in the book might not be the best examples of how to package items.

This book is a valid aid memoir for anyone who has an interest in crime scene investigation. It should not be used as an authority here in the UK but it has some snippets of advice that a practitioner could be reminded of. Personally I think this book is aimed at the legion of armchair CSI fans and would be a good resource for any crime writers who want to describe methods to a reader based on a US crime scene.

The book is littered with case studies from all over the USA. It even recalls how a friend of the author took their own life although it does not in any way describe the processes used in that crime scene.

The final chapter reveals different databases that are used by law enforcement, including finger and palm prints, ballistics and more, unfortunately these are all US systems and nothing at all to do with the international or UK systems.Overall the book is a wealth of knowledge with lots of good advice lots of procedures but is populated with what might as well be advertisements for Tritech Forensics and their eq2uipment kits and is very US centred.

Overall a good book for an enthusiast or a very new crime scene investigator but as a practitioner’s book in the UK I would keep on the shelf or get it from the library and think there are better books that we could possibly use.

Verdict: Good amateurs book. Not great for the professional.