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Abednego
11-16-2010, 02:36 AM
Hi all,

I am very seriously considering moving out of California to Arizona and other nearby free states and have considered a sworn criminalist position (forensic scientist). Does anyone know if your department has any deputy/officer being criminalists and how the demand is for one? Any possible contacts? In Cali it has been very rare in the LA area and I only know of a few sworn criminalists. Thanks! I would appreciate any help. I am still looking into it, but thought it would be worth it to ask fellow WT members.:veryhappy:

Sam Spade
11-16-2010, 09:49 AM
In Southern AZ, the criminalists are non-sworn positions. I know of no town/city/county that has sworn positions. That's Cochise, Santa Cruz, Pinal and Pima Counties.

If you're doing searches, they're generally called "ID Technicians" or "Crime Scene Technicians".

forensicgun
11-16-2010, 12:18 PM
sworn jobs as a forensic scientist are not that common anymore, if your talking about working in a lab. Crime scene/ evidence tech work is still done by regular officers (and that is special training so you typically dont get to do that right out of the academy). What is more common is that a forensic scientist/ criminalist may be a reserve officer. They are still sworn and can carry, but they are not required to do so.
Colorado CBI crime lab still has all sworn, but across the country the trend is to go civillian. NY is about half and half, but of those that have sworn firearms units, the staff is recruited from within and you must be a regular officer with the necessary education to even be considered. What discipline are you looking for. If your interested in firearms you can keep an eye on the AFTE website. Thats were pretty much all the forensic firearms positions are posted. Feel free to IM if you have any specific questions. (I am a forensic firearms examiner who is sworn)

Abednego
11-16-2010, 10:43 PM
Thanks! Yes, I noticed that sworn Criminalists are very rare now. I don't really understand, but I see it as something to be desired given the context of needing scientists on site in addition to those already in the lab. Context and collection are just as important as the analysis in my thinking. My dream would have been to be to be a sworn criminalist, but as reality mandates I probably will try and become a reserve and criminalist. I am more practiced in the Biology section, but am really open to anything at this point. At least in the LAPD there is still some disconnect between the officers and Scientific Investigation Division on occasion, and I thought by being both I could bridge the gap...and make things go along much more smoothly. Hoping that soon there will be a whole section dedicated to this type of work, but I don't think it is likely.

Does your department have civilians that go out in the field on monthly rotations or something similar? I like lab work, but also enjoy being at the crime scene to do collections. Do you know the driving force behind having most criminalists being civilian hired now? I am working toward my M.S. degree for general Criminalistics (Trace, Drug analysis, biology, Firearms and toolmarks, toxicology, etc), so at this point, I'll take anything I can get! They all intrigue me. :)

Sam Spade
11-17-2010, 12:13 AM
Does your department have civilians that go out in the field on monthly rotations or something similar? I like lab work, but also enjoy being at the crime scene to do collections. Do you know the driving force behind having most criminalists being civilian hired now?

Yes, most departments here have those rotations. Check into the various "posses" that support Sheriffs' Offices. Maricopa County (Phoenix) probably makes the most use of them, but other SOs have them as well. They tend to specialize, so you'd have to check with each Office to see how you'd be used.

Driving force? Money.

forensicgun
11-17-2010, 04:35 AM
To address a few of your comments. First make sure you look at the jobs posted on ascld.org , aafs.org, and afte.org (firearms) and look at the job postings closely. It matters since there are actually many grad programs that do not qualify you to work as a DNA scientist or drug/tox scientist. Most labs are moving to some type of accredidation process that requires specific courses (e.g for DNA you need to have a degree in a science like bio or chem and courses in mol. bio, genetics, stats, biochemistry). The job postings can give you specifics but it will help ensure that before you graduate you are in a good poistion not only to enter the field but be competitive for a job you want.
As for scene work its rare out here. I am at the medical examiners office all the time when its a firearm related fatality. Crime scene here is typically handled by evidence techs unless it is a major case then we may go out. The reason for this is that we really have a ton of casework that requires us to be at the lab. At my job 12 to 14 hour days are not out of the norm.
As for the driving force to hire civillans that is a matter of money more than anything else. In my state and I would suspect most in the country a sworn police officer can retire in 20 years and a peace officer after 25years. Lab jobs are often considered good positions and they have a fair amount of competition for each spot. The applicants usually have between 5 and 10 years on the job before they get into the lab. Once in it takes between 1 and 3 years before your fully trained. The cost of a lab to train someone can easly exceed $300,000. So after spending that money the lab has a sworn analyst for a fraction of the time compared to a civillian trained in the same discipline. In civilian labs you will often have several employees that have 25 to 30 years in thier discipline. You dont typically see that in sworn depts.

The advice I would give you is few labs rotate analysts between disciplines anymore. So try and figure out what you would like to do the most. Then what I tell my grad and undergrad students is to get an internship ideally in the section you want to work in. It will give you contacts and help you decide if this is really the field you want to be in. Good luck.

Abednego
11-20-2010, 12:36 AM
Thank you guys for being so helpful, I am aware of the issues of some programs, thanks for the heads up. That is a great idea to keep an eye out on the postings of those sites, and what they require, something I did not really consider. I have the greatest strengths in Biology, since that was what I had as an undergraduate degree. At least for what you guys know, does your department mainly place applicants where they believe there is the greatest needs or strengths? I have extensive experience with working with DNA, but I would like to experience what other sections are like. I only have experience in interning in the serology section. As a firearms examiner are you preferential in who you allow to intern under you by their experience? Do you think someone like me would be able to intern in such a section from your perspective? Thanks!

Sam Spade
11-20-2010, 06:43 PM
The departments you're asking about are signifcantly smaller than LAPD or LASO, for example. In AZ, that means that there is a good deal of the "good ol' boy" system in play. So once you get on nearly anywhere, you'll have a chance to make a name for yourself and have your work become known. If that's favorable, it's pretty common for lateral moves and professional training specifically to broaden your experience. OTOH, if it's unfavorable you'll be doing little more than BACs on DUIs.

Abednego
11-20-2010, 10:43 PM
Hehe, thanks for the tip. Well, I will apply after I graduate and see what happens... Thanks everyone.

forensicgun
11-22-2010, 04:20 AM
Abednego,
Its pretty rare that labs recruit for generalist positions any more. Due in part to the QA/QC system in most labs, most sections have specific degree and course requirements. Having said that many folks start in DNA and move to firearms (which is what I did). Those that go right into the firearms section from school are often brought in as techs, then they promote to a firearms examiner latter. As for who interns, I am not a boss and that decision is made higher up the chain. Often we are asked if we want to deal with an intern (it takes time away from other responsibilities), and sometimes about a specific applicant. The best thing about doing an internship is really getting a chance to see with your own eyes what its like and if its for you. There is a rather high turnover rate in some sections (esp. DNA). Its high stress and is not what some expect based on what they have seen on CSI. I would talk to your advisor and let him/her know what you want to do and find out how they can help. Thats part of the reason your paying the big money for grad school. Its a great field to be in, best of luck.