Forensic Intelligence In The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Forensic Intelligence In The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Sadie Zarwell

Forensics 101: An Introduction to the BCA

Although forensics today is a very widely known and used concept involving scientific theories, tests, and techniques (valid in a court of law), the origin is uncertain. There are traces of forensics being used in China during the sixth century, though there are traces of forensics in other areas of the world around that same time. In the seventh century, we start to see the utilization of fingerprints. Fingerprinting is one of the earliest concepts of forensics to be developed. Though, society really only started using fingerprinting specifically for criminal identification in the early 19th century, when the case of Will and William West was brought to light.


 These two men, Will and Wiliam West defied the old Bertillon method. This method used specific measurements and physical characteristics to identify individuals, but when these two men with identical physical features and measurements entered the united states penitentiary the only feature that was found to significantly set them apart was their fingerprints. The united states penitentiary then completely shifted from the Bertillon method of identifying people to using fingerprint identification for all prisoners, the Bertillon method was officially outdated.


 Scientists realized that keeping records of all the prisoner’s fingerprints in the united states penitentiary was much more efficient and could not be mistaken for anyone else because no one’s fingerprints are alike. Since then, there has been an increase in the need for forensic scientists due to the general increase in crime rates, but, luckily technology has advanced. The advancement of technology has had a significant impact on forensic science. The BCA (bureau of criminal apprehension) was founded in 1927 and has followed along with the ever-changing trends and methods attached to forensic investigation which includes most importantly the advancement in technology. Now the BCA has databases filled with millions of fingerprints and DNA evidence. Technology has not only allowed them to have all this information at the click of a button but, it has also allowed forensic scientists to discover entirely new methods. Technology has helped control the amount of human error when it comes to handling sensitive evidence and come to quicker conclusions and having more accurate analyses of the evidence. The BCA can be easily divided into a few different areas regarding forensic science: seized drugs, toxicology, trace evidence (hairs/fibers/shoeprints/paints, etc.), firearms and tool marks, DNA, breath alcohol, and calibration. Digital media evidence is the newest department to be added to the BCA and is a great example showing how the BCA is always updating methods in order to be as up-to-date as possible, it is only in the recent fifteen years or so that we have seen a huge increase in the use of technology in crimes. Forensic science is always changing, it is a timeless practice and will always be a crucial part of crime investigations.



The Stages of a Crime Investigation 

Though each crime scene is complex and varies significantly from one another, the steps forensic investigators take when first approaching a scene aren’t. It is crucial for crime scene and forensic investigators to stick to the correct procedure for every scene.

  • Securing the scene: Authorized personnel preserve the scene and make sure everyone is safe and taken care of.
  • Separating witnesses: Making sure the witnesses do not talk to each other in order to separate their accounts.
  • Scanning the scene: Marking more obvious evidence to be investigated more thoroughly later.
  • Seeing the scene: Taking photos of the scene. 
  • Sketching the scene: Sketch to depict dimensions of the and location of evidence. 
  • Searching for evidence: Investigate thoroughly to ensure no part has been left unsearched.
  • Securing and collecting evidence: This step includes the chain of custody, a strict process put in place to protect and preserve evidence as much as possible. 




How to be A Criminal Investigator 

Criminal investigation is more than just private professionals investigating criminals and crimes, it is a combination of law enforcement and forensic science. Criminal investigators require tons of skills and training, especially if they want to specifically be on the crime scene team. This team works to search and secure the scene while also collecting evidence. Becoming a criminal investigator can look different, depending on what department, and course type of crime. Though, there is a general basis of what education and practices are needed to become a part of the BCA crime scene team. The crime scene team’s main job is to collect and preserve the evidence, this means that there needs to be a deep understanding of forensic science and the importance of the chain of custody. The chain of custody is vital, overlooking this step could mess up the entire investigation. Criminal investigators need to also have an understanding of criminal justice or criminology.  Understanding crime and criminal behavior is a great help in investigations and potentially leads to providing justice for victims. Understanding these studies along with necessary practice for what field you are interested in are the major steps to becoming a criminal investigator.