Termed as the CSI effect or CSI syndrome, current television shows like Law & Order, CSI, Silent Witness, etc has a profound effect on actual crime scene cleanup investigations. This means that the expectations of those involved in real life crime cleanup situations have bigger expectations out of forensic science, where modern technology is applied in DNA testing and crime scene investigation. Generally, these alters the manner of how the majority of actual trials are done at presents; where prosecutors are required to present additional forensic proof in court.
The advantage of the CSI effects is that:
- Jury members are exposed and get more education on forensic science.
- The public requires more out of the criminal justice system.
- Prosecutors are pressed to turn away the jury from expecting a televised type of performance during the actual trials or proceedings.
But while the CSI effect has its good points, it also has the subsequent disadvantages:
- Forensic science opens its doors to criminal who try to employ the tactics they see on television to cover up for their wrong deeds, which in some cases leads to having no evidence at the scene of the crime.
- True forensic science is not as easy as it looks on television. Additionally making it quite difficult for prosecutors to explain to juries that DNA evidence is not often a significant part of the investigation.
- Juries insist DNA analysis for every 7-Eleven holdup.
The rave of the CSI syndrome or CSI effect has sparked students’ interest, paving way for colleges and universities to add courses, programs and departments inline with the study of forensic science. Some high schools are also adding forensic science into their current curriculum.
While CSI effect would continue for sometime to come, it must be considered that cleaning a crime scene is very different from cleaning a home which normally involves dusting, scrubbing, sweeping and mopping. But with a crime scene cleanup, the acceptable cleaning requirement takes more than just sweeping or mopping; for the scene of trauma is considered to be a distressing or shocking spot for witnesses of the crime. Normally it contains hazardous and infectious materials like blood that may cause diseases.
Relevantly, crime scene cleaners are professional workers who must clean the scene of the crime, disinfect if and restore it to its pre-incident state and condition. It is essential to remember that blood borne pathogenic microorganisms are dangerous to the human health, and can easily be contracted by an untrained and unaware cleaner. Unfortunately, a certification is not necessary in order to cleanup a bloody traumatic scene, although some states strictly implement regulations on how blood and OPIM are handled and disposed.
Violent crime scenes which are filled with other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) aside from human body tissue and blood are normally permeated with the stench of death or what is termed as miasma. Miasma is like a mist or a cloud that settles over a certain area where a fatality or casualty occurred. This type of odor permeates the environment and those who comes in close contact with the affected area because of poor ventilation.
Aside form this the composition of materials affected during the crime also has an effect on how well the place will look and smell like after the crime cleanup cleaners are done with their jobs.
Putting all high profile expectations aside, a real crime scene, which is so different from a crime scene being portrayed on the television have the following:
- Contains a body (if there is any) which can be at the various stage of decomposition.
- Necessitates that the crime cleaners who are hired to do the job of cleaning the mess must be educated on how to handle and dispose blood and OPIM in accordance to state regulations.
- Contaminated with pathogens that are highly infectious and can easily be acquired through cross-contamination if personal protective gears and equipment are not used properly or are insufficient.
- Does not often need a DNA testing for the trial procedure. Moreover, DNA analysis takes time that can protract the time of proceedings.
The drama and high technology effect of the modern television crime shows puts a lot of pressure on counsels who are prosecuting a case because juries and the public would like to witness trails procedures which contains highlights typically seen on television shows. But the fact is that the crime scene shown on television is a controlled setting that does not contain any dangerous OPIM, which means that every aspect of the scene is controlled. However, for real and actual crime scenes the factors involved cannot be controlled and the unexpected sometimes happen.
Fact is, after the investigators are through with scrutinizing the scene of the crime for any needed evidence, they are not the ones who are going to do the job of cleaning up the mess left either by homicides, suicides or accidents. Family members may then decide whether they are up to cleaning the muddle left behind by the occurrence of the crime or if they would hire professional cleaners to do the job. What is not likewise shown on crime television shows is the psychological and emotional impact of a kin who will have to do the cleanup. Thus, cleaners are present to do the job so the sight and painful memory of the incident is taken away from the family who are trying their best to get their lives back in order.
The cleaning and disinfecting of the crime scene area requires the following:
- Protective equipment and clothing which must include a one time overall suit, gloves and boots. A facial mask or filtered respirator is also needed to prevent directly inhaling airborne particles from the OPIM.
- Heavy duty plastic bags and containers that will be used to hold any materials for disposal or evidence. These plastic bags and containers should be tamper proof and sealed at the scene of the crime to prevent loss of important evidence.
- Traditional cleaning tools like mops, brushes, water buckets, sponge, etc.
Additionally, television shows which features crime may give the unnecessary assumption that a job as a crime scene cleaner is a profitable one. Unbeknownst to many, to be a crime scene cleaner is like most other jobs where one needs to have a formal education aside from the training needed. But since there is no formal education that would lead to becoming a crime scene cleaner, taking up studies on forensic science can be a start. But not anybody can just jump into the job because first and foremost a crime scene cleaner must have the guts and stomach to do the job of cleaning up blood, brain materials, body tissues, organs, etc. It will also require proper instruction or training on how to handle such delicate materials, on how to start the cleaning process and the step-by-step procedure that is done to ensure that the area is truly cleaned and disinfected. Guidelines given by OSHA must be strictly followed to make sure that any form of contamination or infection is absolutely contained.
And since a crime scene cleanup is a business, it takes proper cash outlay and a good reputation to keep the jobs coming in. Competition within the market is quite stiff so making it big within the industry may be a possibility but cannot be attained immediately. It takes sometime before the profits are actually pouring in. This is to dispense the notion that cleaning a crime scene can be done by just anybody who needs work because he or she is out of work for sometime. While it may require education and guts this type of job also necessitates experience that can be attained after having performed the job for a time.
The presence of modern television crime shows may project that dealing with a crime scene cleanup is easily done and doing the job of a crime scene cleaner is effortless. What the viewing public must know is that behind every scene of the show they are watching could not be equated with real world. While some points may actually be done based on research, not every angle of the actual complexities of life could be handled by using what one sees on the television. Most of the scenes portrayed by the heroes and heroines of shows may seem to be uncomplicated but in truth incorporating such actions in the real world may produce unexpected results.
It is also interesting to note that the world of forensic science is not actually full of excitement and adventure because science may have unpredictable consequences that are strange and at extremes. Although the said television shows provide pleasurable viewing on crime scene cleanups and investigations, it is often best to keep the tabs on the facts and not the myths especially in true-to-life trials that occurs in courts, because it is not only the reputation of the individual on trial which is at stake but also a life that could be extinguished or irreparably damaged when evidences presented are not factual.