Evidence technicians, or evidence techs, are law enforcement employees who specialize in collecting and analyzing physical evidence from crime scenes. They work alongside investigators to uncover telling evidence at the scenes of accidents and crimes, such as fingerprints, blood spatters, weapons, and footprints. An evidence tech follows careful protocols to collect and transport physical items back to crime labs, where they can be scrutinized to look for clues. If a criminal trial is held, the tech may be called upon as an expert witness to explain the importance of findings.
An evidence tech is usually one of the first professionals to arrive at the scene of a crime. He or she helps block off areas and fill in other investigators as they arrive. When processing a crime scene, the evidence tech is rigorous in systematically examining every possible clue. Some physical evidence is easy to identify, such as weapons, broken glass, and bloody footprints, while other clues require more careful investigation. A tech might dust for fingerprints, measure skid marks from car tires, and assess doorways and windows to see if someone has tampered with them.
Evidence that can be collected is placed in protective bags and brought back to specialized crime labs. Evidence techs catalog items that are brought in and store them appropriately. The actual laboratory analysis of DNA, fingerprints, and other subtle biological evidence is usually handled by trained forensic scientists rather than techs.
Techs record findings in official reports to help prosecutors put together accurate, convincing cases to take to trial. When a trial is held, evidence techs are often called to the stand to present evidence to judges and juries. They explain why certain findings are relevant and answer any questions that judges or lawyers may have about the specific crime scenes.
The requirements to become an evidence tech vary between regions and law enforcement agencies. Most employers require applicants for evidence tech positions to have at least some post-secondary education in police science, criminal justice, or another subject related to the position. In addition, professionals experience as a police officer, security guard, researcher, or evidence processor is very helpful in landing entry-level jobs. In order to qualify for positions in most agencies, applicants must have clean criminal records and pass drug tests.
New evidence techs typically begin their careers as assistants to experienced workers. In addition to on-the-job training, new employees typically attend classes to improve their understanding of the job. Among other topics, they learn about specific regional laws and regulations regarding the proper collection, handling, and processing of physical evidence. Successful assistants are gradually given more responsibilities and eventually allowed to work unsupervised on criminal cases.