The Arizona Republic profiles the Phoenix police Crime Scene Response unit, whose investigators say they struggle against the popular, TV-driven notion that forensic clues can solve crimes in minutes. Earlier this year, Phoenix became the only municipal police department in the country to have its mobile crime-scene specialists accredited by the same agency that lends credibility to crime labs. The hope is that the designation will help the department maintain consistent investigative standards in an era of rising public interest.
The Phoenix accreditation came in April after police leaders digested a critical study by the National Academy of Sciences, which noted chronic flaws in most forensic-science methods. Phoenix forensics specialists process evidence for nearly 11,000 violent crimes each year. Based on the caseload, homicides and other violent crimes take precedence. “It’s a tough, dirty job,” said Steve O’Dell, crime-scene section supervisor. The unit employs 44 people and has a budget of $13 million.