Crime Scene Response: The Call Out
This will be the first in a series of posts on how CSIs respond to and investigate crime scenes. I hope that these posts will give you a little insight to the process which may help you in developing scenes and dialog in your novel. I’ll be speaking exclusively about CSIs who are on-call as opposed to those working in shifts. Obviously, if your character works a shift (like graves) they are already in uniform or in their vehicle or office and can respond accordingly. But, what about the CSIs who get called out after hours? This is where it can get a little interesting. During my career I worked banker hours during the day and was on-call at night and on weekends. Depending on the size of the lab you may be on-call as much as every other week or once every six or eight weeks. Usually you’re on call one week at a time. In some labs you may also be on “back up” the week before you go on-call which means you’re the number two person called if something major happens or the primary criminalist is already on a call out.
Most agencies will give you an on-call vehicle and some even supply your phone. You are required to drive this vehicle everywhere you go while on-call, even on personal errands like grocery shopping or going out to eat. Of course, when the call comes you have to finish up what you’re doing and respond to the crime scene. This adds a little inconvenience to your life in that you usually have to driver separately from your family. So if you and your spouse go out for dinner you need to drive separately. Same thing with going to the kids soccer game, Thanksgiving dinner, or anything else you might do. You can’t take your spouse or kids to a crime scene because you don’t know how long you’ll be tied up (days in extreme cases). Obviously, you have to stay somewhat close to home when on call. You can’t go camping for the weekend or do anything that would prevent you from responding in a reasonable amount of time. Most agencies I know of require you to be en route to a scene within thirty minutes of a call and on scene in about an hour.
Different agencies have different policies on who actually can call out a CSI. Most of the time this is restricted to the Sergeant rank or above. Since CSIs are a finite resource agencies don’t want them called out on every little thing so a higher ranked individual will evaluate the request to see if a CSI is really needed. In some agencies only the investigations supervisors can call out the lab and patrol officers must make their request through them. Either way, the CSI usually gets the call from either the ranking officer, detective, or in most cases dispatch. Regardless, when the call comes in you have to take down pertinent information about the crime. Every CSI will have a notebook and their phone on the nightstand or in their vehicle. Here are some of the basic things we might have to note as the call comes in.
- Time and date of the call out
- Who notified you
- The crime scene location (address)
- Initial details about the crime including secondary scenes (this information may be incomplete or incorrect depending on the source)
- Time and place of your departure to the crime scene (this could be your residence, restaurant, or some other location)
- Finally, time of arrival on scene.
Your departures and arrivals are usually done via police radio so there is a record. Every criminalist will be assigned a call sign number. Sometimes this is an arbitrary employee number, vehicle number, or just your name. Here is a hypothetical radio exchange between a CSI and dispatch. When you talk to dispatch you typically only reference yourself; you don’t have to say “dispatch”. There are some websites that actually let you listen in to live police radio traffic in your area so you may want to do a web search for your local police or sheriff followed by “police radio” and see what comes up.
Dispatch: “651 go ahead”
CSI: “Show me en route to 1234 4th street from my residence”
Dispatch: “Copy 2147″ (2147 would be 9:47 pm in military time)
Then when you arrive on scene you might say…
CSI: “651 on scene”
Dispatch: “2231″ (meaning your arrival is acknowledged at 10:31pm)
There is no need to acknowledge what scene you are arriving at because you already made that clear in the initial call. If you needed to talk to an officer or detective while en route you would contact them on the radio using their call sign followed by yours. For example you might say “Charlie 23, 651″. This means “hey guy named Charlie 23 this is me (651) and I want to talk to you.
Posted on September 24, 2012, in Characters, The Crime Scene and tagged coroner, crime, Crime Scene, csi, detective, fiction, forensics, murder, mystery, on-call, police, police radio, thriller, tom adair. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.