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Crime Scene Investigations
Crime Scene Investigations UnitThe City of Miami Police Department utilizes the various disciplines of the forensic sciences in order to conduct Crime Scene Investigations and aid in the prosecution of criminal cases.

The Crime Scene Investigation Unit is an element of the Criminal Investigation Division's Criminal Investigations Section, and is comprised of two Units.

The Crime Scene Investigation Unit, the real "Miami CSI", is comprised of civilian Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) and is on call to support criminal investigation activities throughout the City of Miami 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Whenever a crime occurs in the City of Miami. police officers or investigators arrive at a crime scene, secure the scene and make an assessment, and if the situation requires further support, they request the services of the Crime Scene Investigation Unit. The CSIs are "on scene" within two hours.

The Unit's CSI staff are an extremely experienced cadre with an average of 12 years of expertise and training. They are well qualified to handle any and all types of crimes, either conducting their analysis on their own or as part of an investigative team. They are extraordinarily skilled in photography, evidence collection,  fingerprint processing, sketching, and giving expert testimony in criminal court proceedings.

Much of the work conducted by these professionals is absolutely critical in determining the guilt or innocence of the individuals under investigation. Once collected and analyzed, the evidence gathered at crime scenes tells the story of how the crime evolved.

The Crime Scene Investigation Unit has 8 vans and 1 Mobile Crime Scene Laboratory, which respond to crime scenes throughout the City of Miami. These specifically designed vans transort much of the equipment required to process a crime scene regardless of the nature of the crime being investigated. The Mobile Crime Lab was acquired in 2003, and is capable of responding to extremely complex crime scenes and is self-sufficient with exterior lighting and electrical capabilities as well as specialized equipment to examine and process evidence in the field.

The career path for a Crime Scene Investigator includes a formal education curriculum of either Criminal Justice, Criminology, Physical Science, or coursework in the Natural Sciences. Several colleges and universities are also offering courses tailored to crime scene technology, which, addresses the field work aspect of the profession. The Crime Scene Investigator frequently operates in extremely harsh environments and is often exposed to very gruesome crime scenes. At times the work is quite strenuous, and the successful CSI must be mentally and physically capable of overcoming the stress that is part of the profession.

Crime Scene Investigations UnitCSI Miami
Lazaro Fernandez

On the popular television show, CSI Miami, the savvy crime scene investigators are uncanny at discovering and collecting the most minute and inane pieces of evidence. Working in a state of the art facility with the most modern equipment and unlimited resources, they skillfully examine the evidence and are always able to determine the guilty party.

Even though it doesn’t work quite that way in actuality, the real CSI Miami, the Crime Scene Investigations Unit of the Miami Police Department, utilizes various disciplines of the forensic sciences to conduct crime scene investigations and aid in the prosecution of criminal cases.

The Miami Police Department’s Crime Scene Investigations (CSI) Unit is comprised entirely of civilian employees. The unit has 20 Crime Scene Investigators, four Shift Supervisors, one Forensic Unit Supervisor and one Forensic Unit Manager. Crime Scene Investigators possess a wealth of knowledge and experience. These seasoned professionals are well trained and versed in crime scene investigations. The CSIs handle all types of crime scenes, either individually or as a team. Processing crime scenes includes fingerprinting, photography, evidence collection, sketching, and providing critical testimony in criminal court proceedings. The Miami Police Department’s CSI Unit also assists various local, state and federal agencies in their investigations.

Much of the work conducted by these individuals aids the police department in determining the guilt or innocence of those under investigation. The evidence collected at a crime scene helps investigators recreate what occurred and either supports or refutes statements, confessions and/or the beliefs of the general public.

The CSI Unit has eight vans and one Mobile Crime Scene Laboratory. The vans are outfitted with equipment required to process crime scenes. The state-of-the-art Mobile Crime Lab is utilized to respond to more complex crime scenes. It is self sufficient, and fully equipped with exterior lighting and electrical capabilities as well as specialized equipment to examine and process evidence in the field.

The Miami Police Department’s CID Unit also has a Technical Services Unit. That unit includes the Latent Print Detail, the Photo Lab Detail, and the Employee Identification Detail.

Crime Scene Investigations UnitThe Latent Print Detail
The Latent Print Examiners are highly specialized individuals who examine latent (unknown) fingerprints from crime scenes and attempt to match them to known criminal’s fingerprints, from the county and statewide database. Using an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the examiners are able to search a greater number of latent fingerprints from crime scenes much faster than they could manually. The Miami Police Department purchased this equipment in the 1980’s, making it the first agency in the United States to have this valuable tool. Shortly after the AFIS’s purchase, it was instrumental in solving the murder of Miami Police Officer Nathaniel Broom. Within 45 minutes of the vehicle being processed for latent fingerprints, a recovered print was entered into the AFIS.

The suspect was identified and subsequently arrested for Officer Broom’s murder. A more recent acquisition is the OMNITRAK system that identifies latent palm prints. Because about 40% of latents recovered tend to be palm prints, the OMNITRAK system is a very important tool in the CSI arsenal.

With the use of the AFIS and the ability to search the county’s as well as the state’s databases, the latent print examiners can more easily identify subjects whose latent fingerprints were recovered at crime scenes. Once they make a match, a report is issued to a detective who will follow up in order to determine whether the person identified has a legitimate reason for leaving his/her fingerprints on the crime scene, or is possibly the perpetrator. If the person has no valid reason, an arrest can be made based on fingerprint evidence alone, which is normally called the “silent witness.”

The Photo Lab Detail
All photographic processing, printing and archiving services for the CSI Unit as well as other units within the department are conducted by this detail. They are responsible for the developing, printing, digitizing and maintenance of negatives related to crime scenes.

Originally, the CSIs processed negatives manually. The cameras were large and the development and printing of the 4” by 5” negatives was performed by hand in total darkness. The CSIs had to manually mix the solution, bathe the negatives, then dry and print their photographs.

The 1970s brought automation into the detail with the use of a Kreonite color film processor and printer and the use of smaller negatives on roll film. Although a lot of manual labor was still involved in the processing, the machine performed most of the work in a lighted work area. The 1980’s and 90’s further brought more new developments in that fully automated mini-lab systems were now employed in the processing and printing of much smaller 35 mm color film.

Digital photography arrived in the millennium. In 2003, the Photo Lab Detail acquired a new state-of-the-art digital photo lab. Although all of the photographs taken at crime scenes are still taken with 35 mm film, they are developed, digitized and stored on a computer where they can be viewed and/or preserved on CD’s. The negatives are always preserved, and currently our files date back to crimes from the early 1960’s.

Employee Identification Detail
This detail is responsible for issuing identification and access cards to all City of Miami employees.

The Employee Identification Detail was once responsible for issuing identification cards to the general public as well. During times of mass immigrations, the detail was tasked with photographing and fingerprinting the new arrivals so they could have valid identification in the United States. This function is now the responsibility of the State of Florida.

Related Web Sites
The International Association for Identification:
Florida Division of the IAI:
Federal Bureau of Investigation:
Fingerprint Society:
American Academy of Forensic Sciences: