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SIO Corner: Crime Scene Logs And Associated Documentation

This week we look at the issues surrounding the Crime Scene Log and notes taken by the CSM/CSI and Exhibits Lists

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).

Crime Scene Logs

Scene logs are quite simply an official audit trail and record of everyone who enters a crime scene. They not only deter unauthorized access but also preserve the integrity of the scene.

There are specifically designed forms to use for this purpose which, when completed, should include details of the person(s)keeping the log, full details of all persons who enter or leave the scene against signature, the exact date and time in and out, the reason for entry, and whether protective clothing is worn or not.

The officer who is maintaining the outer cordon scene log is normally positioned at the RVP to capture all persons attempting to enter the scene.

There are normally clear instructions printed inside the front cover of scene logs. Spare booklets should be stored in a readily accessible place because they are not generally issued to all staff and are only used as and when required, primarily at major crime scenes.

There should be a separate log for both inner and outer cordons (and for a third cordon if one is used). All logs, once completed, must be submitted without delay to the major incident room for examination and processing on HOLMES2.

Designated scene ‘logists’ should record on the log only details of those who actually enter or leave the crime scene (the ‘sterile' area). Entries should clearly record reasons for a person entering the scene on the log. The logs need to be detailed, accurate, and comprehensive. If for any reasons the correct log forms are not immediately available, then a pocket book or other note-taking format should be utilized, but the same amount of care must be taken even if it is recorded on plain paper.

There are some common mistakes made with scene logs. Some are as follows:

1. Incorrect forms used or none at all. Using a makeshift piece of paper or officer’s pocket book is not very professional. Experience indicates that if official forms are not used then usually the necessary detail is not recorded.

2. Precise and accurate details not recorded. Each and every box and question on the form is there for a specific reason. There should be no gaps, for instance if protective clothing has not been worn the box needs to state this and must not be left blank. If it is a requirement to note the weather conditions at regular intervals, this should be completed correctly.

3. Incorrect detail recorded. Attention to detail is vital, even down to the correct spelling of people’s names. Scene logs are entered onto the HOLMES2 database with all the names of persons attending the scene. Any that are not spelt correctly can lead to dual registration and foul up the nominal indices.

4. Entries on forms not being signed. Some officers may feel awkward asking people who are wearing protective suits or whatever to keep signing themselves in and out of scenes. All entries should be made against signature, with no excuses.

5. Briefing and supervision. It can be a tedious and thankless task to perform the role of scene logist or security. Those tasked with this function should be correctly briefed as to the importance of the role, and the logs checked at regular intervals by a supervisor to ensure they are being completed correctly.

6. Hand-over periods. These should be fully recorded as to date, time, and persons involved, and properly managed to ensure consistency and professionalism in approach.


A sensible approach to log-keeping is sometimes required. For example, when CSIs are returning to and from their vehicles or equipment that are located just outside the outer cordon on a regular basis there is no need for them to be constantly logged in and out as they are effectively still ‘in the scene’, provided the SIO and CSM are satisfied there is no risk of contamination.

CSM/CSI Notes And Exhibit Lists

Any crime scene exhibit list compiled by the CSM or the CSI during the scene examination (and their notes) must be copied and handed to the SIO via the exhibits officer for eventual processing by the MIR at the earliest opportunity.

This may contain details of important items that the SIO may need an immediate awareness of so that important decisions can be made and actions raised. Often it is the case that these important lists get taken away with the CSIs or whoever until such time as a strategy meeting is held, which may be too late to instigate fast-track actions.

This rule also applies to any other experts who attend and examine aspects of the scene and may prepare their own exhibit lists, such as forensic scientists.

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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