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SIO Corner: Forensic Recovery And Crime Scene Documentation

This week we look at issues relating to forensic recovery, planning and prioritisation, along with crime scene administration and documentation

In this series we look at various aspects of life as an SIO. This includes the necessary skill sets for the successful SIO, the management of serious crime investigation and specific elements of investigative practice from initial response through crime scene examination and investigative strategies to dealing with suspects and the media. The articles are excerpts from the 2nd edition of Blackstone's, the 'Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook', written by two highly experienced SIOs (see 'About the Authors' at the end of the article).

Forensic Recovery, Planning, and Prioritization

Any item that is identified as being required for forensic examination should, as a general rule, be left in its original position for a decision on how best to recover it.

For general items this decision is normally taken by the CSI in consultation with the CSM, it is then at the SIO’s discretion to determine what items are to be made subject of a tactical meeting and generally recorded as a policy entry or in a separate strategy document.

Larger or fragile items will come under this category such as vehicles, eg if the victim was murdered in a vehicle or the suspect abandoned one. Some items, such as spent/empty cartridge cases from a firearm or used condoms in an alleyway, may need a policy as to how they are to be recovered, with a consideration of what tests will be required and prioritized (eg DNA or fingerprints). These are decisions to be taken by the CSM and SIO working collaboratively.

This is where an assessment and pre-examination briefing and planning process comes in. The SIO will have an opportunity to discuss recovery of items with their crime scene team, ie CSM and CSI, forensic scientists, forensic pathologist (any other required scientific advisers and experts such as environmental profilers and botanists), anthropologists etc.

It will also allow all those concerned to focus on the scene as a whole and not just their own specialist areas before starting to work on the scene. The meeting and subsequent examination and recovery plans should help the SIO and their CSM maintain firm control of the proceedings.

Crime Scene Administration and Documentation

Forms of scene administration and documentation used will vary from force to force in accordance with local procedures. However, it should generally include the following:

Note: All ‘relevant’ material must be retained and details submitted to the major incident room for processing under disclosure rules in accordance with CPIA 1996.

About the Authors:

Detective Superintendent Tony Cook was a CID officer with Greater Manchester Police for over 31 years until his retirement in 2009. During his time as an SIO, he led a number of high profile investigations including operations into gangland violence at Moss Side, the Bolton murder of a teenage girl in 2002, and the Denton strangling case. He was a trained assessor for promotion and a qualified Authorising Officer under RIPA. Tony received 14 commendations and a first-class BSc Honours degree in social sciences and a Diploma in Social Policy & Criminology from the Open University.

Andy Tattersall, formerly Detective Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police on the Force Major Incident Team, retired in 2007 after 33 years service and became the first ever Support Staff SIO in charge of a new Homicide Support Unit. With over 29 years in CID at all ranks Andy received the Homicide Working Group National Award for his Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Homicide in November 2006.

To see more details about the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook, or to purchase a copy, click here.

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