Forensic analysis is a type of investigation that examines and interprets physical evidence found at a crime scene or obtained during an investigation.
This analysis has become increasingly important because society depends on unbiased science and technology for accurate information through many different disciplines.
Here is an overview of forensic investigation, the requirements to be an analyst, and the roles played by the practitioners.
What is a forensic analyst?
Forensic analysts are experts who help law enforcement agencies solve crimes by identifying evidence and conducting investigations to find out what happened. They recognize the type of evidence present at a crime scene, record it in a report, and then analyze it to help establish the facts of a case.
These analysts collect and store physical evidence from crime scenes which can be used as direct evidence or for other purposes. Such purposes include recreating events leading to the crime or preserving trace evidence like fingerprints or DNA.
Forensic analysts provide information about crimes that the police might not be able to obtain through talking with witnesses or watching surveillance footage.
These professional analysts are also outfitted with a variety of tools and equipment so that they can quickly identify potential evidence and analyze it accurately. If interested in the field, many criminology courses online provide a neutral environment to learn more about the world of forensic science and explore careers in this vital field. A combined Honours BA in Criminology and Policing from Wilfred Laurier University is one such online criminology degree that prepares you for a future in crime and justice. The program offers targeted methodologies and practical experience.
11 forensic analyst roles & responsibilities
The primary responsibilities of a forensic analyst are to collect and preserve evidence, identify types of evidence, and interpret the evidence found at a scene.
They also test samples for substances like blood, drugs, or explosives to determine what was utilized in a crime. Let’s look at the roles played by forensic analysts.
Helping detectives in the examination and analysis of crime scene materials
Analysts in forensic biology examine blood samples or body fluids. They also use other biological materials found at crime scenes, such as hair, to identify potential suspects.
The techniques used by forensic biologists are precise because these analysts need to distinguish between different individuals based on trace evidence like forensic DNA analysis.
Additionally, the type of equipment used by crime scene analysts varies depending on their specific requirements. It may include binoculars, magnifying glasses, measuring tapes, sample trays, cameras with different lens filters, and other instruments used to examine samples in a controlled manner.
Crime scene analysts also use their scientific knowledge to help to investigate detectives gathering evidence from a crime scene. They may analyze fingerprints and footprints left behind by the perpetrators of a crime so that the police can identify who was there and capture them.
Field testing or gathering evidence at crime scenes
Crime scene analysts work at the scene to collect and preserve evidence for further examination. They also examine the location of physical evidence at a crime scene and can use this evidence to determine what happened.
These analysts can also use their forensic biology skills to test the presence of evidence and gather material from the crime scene. Their tests analyze bodily fluids, blood, hair, or other trace evidence found on the soles of shoes.
The analysis of physical evidence using these field tests is one example of how forensic analysts can be highly skilled technicians and scientists. Each analyst must follow strict guidelines and learn these techniques properly to provide accurate results when working on a case.
Taking photographs of the crime scene and evidence
Photographs are a vital part of the evidence-collection process. They help investigators catalog and identify items at a crime scene by including descriptions that may help identify where the items were found.
Forensic analysts photograph crime scenes, including locations of blood, fingerprints, items left at the scene, and even footprints. They use unique cameras that can sometimes include features like infrared or ultraviolet light to help these analysts identify blood stains on a suspect’s clothing.
Developing tests and assessing evidence
Forensic scientists must also use their training to make clear choices as they work with evidence and collect it from a crime scene or suspects during an investigation.
They can then apply tests and analyze the results, even if these are complex and involve interactions between many different chemicals or particles that may or may not be present at the crime scene.
Analysts will use standard scientific tests to verify various items at a crime scene, like bone analysis in bone matches and chemical spectrometry in drug analysis.
Recording and documenting test results
Forensic analysts record analysis of physical evidence from a crime scene in detailed reports. These records help law enforcement officials solve the case, and attorneys may request them to provide further clarification.
Most forensic reports include information about the type of evidence collected, preservation methods, and any results obtained from testing the evidence. These results consist of DNA or field test results to identify drugs or explosives at the scene.
Creating findings reports
Goal-oriented reports are essential for crime scene analysis because they contain a detailed record of all the items collected at the crime scene. These reports include things traced to the perpetrator of a crime, such as blood or fingerprints at a crime scene.
Findings reports are generated by forensic analysts who have an extensive background in science and may have graduated from advanced forensic programs. They apply their specific analytical skills and knowledge of biology to determine items used to commit a crime and report these findings to law enforcement.
Advising courts and law enforcement using findings
One of the essential tasks that forensic analysts can do is to assist courts by providing expert opinions or testimony.
Crime scene analysts testify in court proceedings where law enforcement officials discuss physical evidence related to a crime. The analyst will examine the physical evidence, identify it, and then provide an opinion about its origin.
Forensic analysts provide scientific information that attorneys may need as they prepare for these cases and ways to test physical evidence found at a crime scene to obtain more information.
Evidence technicians can also provide expert testimony by giving an opinion about how certain items might have got used at a crime scene.
Ensuring the maintenance and cleaning of lab equipment
Crime scene analysts also protect and clean equipment for collecting and analyzing physical evidence. They may have to calibrate or maintain sophisticated scientific instruments that can produce precise and detailed results.
Crime scene analysts know how to thoroughly clean containers used when collecting and analyzing physical evidence from a crime scene. They must follow strict protocols regarding drying procedures, chemical cleaning agents, and proper handling of these samples by adhering to set standards.
Analysts also have to clean lab equipment at crime labs or in the field if they are working on a crime scene. Proper hygiene ensures that any samples taken from the crime scene can be analyzed using proper techniques and achieving more accurate results.
Appearing in court as a witness
Crime scene analysts appear in court as witnesses for the prosecution. They may have to explain their findings about evidence and present physical evidence used to solve the case.
Analysts can give compelling testimony that will stand up in a court case. They can clearly describe how certain items were used at a particular crime scene and confirm the accuracy of field tests used by law enforcement officers during the investigation.
Crime scene analysts are often called on to give expert opinions on forensic science or material science during a trial, especially when there is a dispute about what happened.
Teaching others in the field
Experienced crime scene analysts instruct and guide less experienced professionals in the field. These professionals train new crime scene analysts how to collect and preserve evidence and practically present the most accurate findings in court.
Forensic science students benefit from this training when they enter their chosen field because it can provide a foundation for the work they will do. Training on collecting evidence, preserving it properly, and presenting a graphic explanation of results helps new analysts work better.
Advising on the construction of crime scene labs
Forensic analysts must also work with architects and construction crews to create the perfect layout for new crime labs. These labs must have a design that maintains a sterile environment that can be certified as secure by law enforcement officials.
Working with specialists in architecture, plumbing, electrical, and other fields allow forensic analysts to provide a detailed blueprint for the new lab. The facility may include workspaces for different evidence collection types and rooms for storing toxic or explosive chemicals used in testing samples from a crime scene.
Analysts are also responsible for maintaining accurate records of all equipment used at crime scenes and labs and overseeing any repairs that need to be made to this equipment.
Forensic analyst requirements
Forensic analysis is growing, with more and more progress in DNA testing and other evidence analysis techniques. With this increasing need for qualified forensic analysts comes the opportunity for career advancement.
The sky is the limit for crime scene analysts who want to become involved in law enforcement or even forensics above and beyond their role as an analyst can consider criminology courses online. Here are the requirements to become a qualified forensic analyst.
A degree in forensic sciences, genetics, or a closely related discipline
A forensic analyst must have a bachelor’s degree in forensic sciences, genetics, or a close science-related discipline. The program can be either a 4-year undergraduate degree or a master’s degree that you can study at a university or virtually.
A bachelor’s degree program will help analysts understand how materials interact with one another and how to apply them in evidence collection and analysis at crime scenes.
Prior forensic analyst experience
Potential employers highly value on-the-job experience. The experience can come from internships or apprenticeship programs that allow new graduates to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field
Effective teamwork and communication skills
The ability to work on a team is an essential part of the job. Crime scene analysts work with other forensic scientists, law enforcement officers, and sometimes survivors or victims of a crime. An influential team member will also communicate with these teams and any interns who come into the lab as part of their degree program.
Expert analysts are called upon to explain their findings in court and give other professionals information about a crime scene or the evidence they collected. The professionals must communicate effectively and clearly with other law enforcement professionals and speak well during court testimony.
Unbiased and private
Crime scene analysts must be impartial and objective to present their findings in ways that do not get swayed by other factors. Job candidates who can prove that they can work well with victims, suspects, and witnesses and keep the information confidential will have an advantage in securing the job.
Where does a forensic analyst work?
Some forensic investigators examine the evidence gathered from crime scenes by cops, detectives, or other law enforcement employees at the lab. Other analysts who work in criminal justice independently gather the evidence when visiting crime scenes.
Additionally, forensic experts may occasionally get called to testify in court regarding their results. They must attest to explain the forensics procedure to the judge or jury or to show why a particular suspect is or is not likely to have committed the alleged crime.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic analysts make an average salary of about $61,000 per year. This makes it a viable career option for those looking to make a decent living.
Crime scene analysts use their training from physical lectures or online criminology courses to collect and analyze evidence. The evidence works in court against a known criminal or in an investigation to determine who committed a crime.
Using their skills and knowledge of the law, forensic analysts try to solve crimes and bring the parties involved to justice.