Forensic Identification Specialist
Do you pay attention to details and dig TV shows like CSI and The X-Files? Perhaps then a job in forensics might be the perfect career for you! Get the scoop from a cop who works in the field of forensic science!
Constable Paul Brisson is a Forensic Identification Specialist (apprentice) for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Kamloops, Canada. Cst. Brisson has 16 years of police service under his belt including nine years as a Collision Analyst and two years in the Forensic Identification section.
In a days work, Cst. Brisson attends crime scenes and/or examines evidence collected from a crime scene by an investigator. At the scene of a crime he'll take photographs, jot down his findings, collect and record forensic evidence such as fingerprints, DNA (hair, skin, blood samples, etc.) and footwear imprints. After preparing a report for the investigator, he submits the fingerprints to the police computer's British Columbia Automated Fingerprint Information System (BCAFIS) to see if there is a match on the fingerprints and to record the info. Then the evidence goes to court.
The Good StuffIn order to find evidence, Cst. Brisson says, "you have to put yourself in the suspect's shoes." (Hmmm... if I were a bad guy I would have done this first... then gone here, perhaps.) The best part of the job, Paul says, "Is being expected, required and paid to be thorough and be given the time required to complete an investigation."
The Bad StuffThe worst part of being a forensic specialist is preparing for court. There's a ton of paperwork, yuck!
The $$$The starting salary for a police Constable is $58,000 CDN a year and after three years you're promoted to a Corporal at $64,000 CDN a year. You can continue to advance up the ranks in forensics. In the US, a forensics specialist can make between $29,300 and $50,000 US a year (salary may very state to state.)
Most Exciting InvestigationThe most exciting event for Cst. Brisson was solving a murder case by identifying a wood fragment recovered from the suspect's home. The wood fragment was from a larger piece of wood which had been used as a weapon. Footwear impression evidence was also used to crack the case.
TrainingYou can't become a forensics specialist overnight. First you have to become a police officer, which is a long and difficult process. Before jumping into forensics you need to have three years of general duty policing (with the RCMP in this case) and you need to have a recommendation as a potential candidate for the field.
Then you have to take a Scenes of Crime Officer Course as well as a Forensic Identification Course at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa, Canada. A forensic specialist is also required to complete a four-year Forensic Identification Apprentice Training Program.
Early Career PrepCst. Brisson knew he wanted to be a police officer when he was eight years old and later developed an interest in forensics. "I enjoy looking for answers and finding evidence that speaks for itself," says Cst. Brisson. "I enjoy this type of work so much I can hardly believe I get paid to do it!"
For young people thinking about a career in forensics Cst. Brisson suggests working hard - studying subjects like chemistry, physics, math, computers and even drafting. He also recommends staying out of trouble!
Did you know that there is a 0% error rate in forensics? If you goof up the evidence, you'll be fired.
Forensics specialists use 35mm, digital video/image cameras, computers, scanners, fingerprint dusting powders & sprays, UV & laser lights and digital measuring devices.
For more on the RCMP and what's involved in forensics, click here.