Looking back, it occurs to me that I've been involved in varying aspects of crime scene investigation (CSI) throughout my entire law enforcement and writing careers. I even remember thinking, many years back, about writing a treatment for a TV show based on CSI ... but then telling myself "yeah, right, who'd want to watch something that gruesome, boring and/or repetitious?"
So much for my visionary sense of media viewing tastes.
But I have incorporated CSI and forensic techniques in all of my fiction novels, and even wrote a couple of non-fiction texts on the topic.
The first one, titled CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, was written back in the late 70s and published for the purpose of training police crime scene investigators, and has long since gone out of print.
The second one, titled ITS YOUR CRIME SCENE, is a non-fiction guide for the general public on how CSI *really* works , what the investigators at the scenes really do, and how crime victims can help ... along with some anecdotes about how things went terribly and/or humorously wrong at some of my real crime scenes. This one is now available as an eBook on the Amazon, Nook and iTunes sites.
Coral Reef CSI:
More recently, I've had the opportunity to be a part of an international team of marine biologists tasked with developing CSI protocols to investigate damaged coral reefs. It's been an interesting experience, to put it mildly.
But, in order to qualify for the team, the first thing I had to do was quickly get certified as a scuba diver, which meant six weeks of one-on-one training at our local Rogue Scuba dive shop.
The first three weeks were fun: all of the basic scuba instruction in a nice warm indoor pool with lots of visibility ... and the ever-helpful knowledge that the surface wasn't far away if/when things started to go wrong.
The last three were a little more challenging: they took place in the 45-degree (F) mountain-stream fed waters of Lost Creek Lake, OR, where I got to enjoy limited visibility --- and freeze my butt off in a 7mm wet suit --- while my dear wife sat out in the warm sun, all bundled up, cheerfully discussing my mental problems with Al, my dive instructor.
After that, I had to qualify as a US Fish & Wildlife Service diver; which, as I quickly found out, would involve a number of timed, long-distance swims and stress/rescue tests in the open ocean that I could have done a lot easier when I was 30-40 years younger!
But they all took place in a lagoon off Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, which wasn't exactly a hardship duty station; and the tests really weren't all that bad --- at least in the mental sense --- once I figured out that the lagoon reef would probably keep the sharks out while I was splashing around on the surface.
Even better, Al had given me some helpful hints on how to pass the tests (especially the 100-yard disabled diver tow) without risking a coronary. Good old Al.
Three hours later, and thanks to Al's help, I was an official USFWS diver ... which meant it was time for me to fly out to Cozumel, Mexico, where four coral reef marine biologists and I were going to figure out what land-based CSI techniques could be adapted to coral reef structures and the open ocean currents.
It was at Cozumel that I discovered pretty much everything I knew how to do on land re CSI (for example: taking notes in ink, setting a scene perimeter, etc etc) didn't work in the open water ... especially when there were strong currents flowing through the crime scene.I also had to get used to breathing slowly, keeping track of my dive partner, monitoring my dive computer, and watching out for things that bite.
And, in doing so, I also discovered that trying to take a crime scene photograph one-handed, while trying to stay in place by holding onto a nearby rock (see photo at right), would be one of my bigger challenges. After my first few attempts, my dive partner was laughing so hard he almost spit his regulator out.
But after ten days of trial-and-error, while we all worked hard to share our varying sets of knowledge and experience, we finally came up with a draft coral reef CSI protocol which we would use in the following week to train the first 21 marine biologists from 13 countries in basic coral reef CSI techniques.
I've posted a few photos of that first training session up on this site for your viewing.