Officers must be ‘forensically aware’ to avoid contamination

Officers must be 'forensically aware' to avoid contamination

Article by Jasmin McDermott, Police Oracle

Academic believes awareness training among police officers will greatly improve possible contamination issues at crime scenes.

Police officers should spend more “quality time” with crime scene examiners to make them more forensically aware to help eliminate possible contamination issues, it has been suggested.

Basic guidance to ensure that officers are aware about procedures in place at crime scenes – such as storing sealed gloves in a way that minimises contamination, rather than keeping them in bags or pockets – could improve the quality of certain forensic submissions.

In an interview with, Dr Paul Smith, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth, said that giving officers more contact with crime scene examiners could help raise awareness of the problems they face at a scene.

He said: “It seems like officer forensic training is waning, and it is not as good as it can be.”

He added that giving guidance to officers “would not be to impair the main task” of specialists, but would ensure that “they (the officers) are aware of the main processes involved.”

Dr Smith added: “It is just little things that they need to know – for example about where the officers carry their gloves, because if they put them in their pocket they could be inadvertently transferring DNA from place to place.

“We are making all this effort in forensic processes when we are not emphasising the benefits with officers who are crucial to crime investigations.”

Forensic experts

Dr Smith, a former scenes of crime officer at Leicestershire Police, believes that the College of Policing could help improve the training of officers by giving guidance on areas of interest to them. However, he stressed that any training should not take the form of courses but instead should consist of more contact with experts.

The academic believes that by generating more awareness, the potential for problems to emerge with forensic submissions could be reduced further – thus saving time and money.

He added: “There are areas within forensics that just need to be re-emphasised to officers, and there needs to be standardised training so that officers can realise how important they are in the greater scheme of things.

“Officers need to have more quality time and contact with crime scene examiners about the forensic processes when they are at the crime scheme.

“This is not a new problem and there are moves to shake this up and improve things.”