8.07.2005

new job... week 1!

welcome to the crime labfor folks who are confused about what i am actually doing, here's an explanation of my job -- i am employed by the state police, who run the state crime lab, which is where i work. the crime lab is full of people, half of whom are sworn ranked state police personnel. those are the folks with the badges and the guns, and they run things like ballistics, arson, and crime scene investigations. the rest of the state crime lab is people like me. we are civilians who run everything else like administration, DNA, trace evidence, chemistry, biology, and fingerprinting. i am working in the administration department, trying to help keep the bills paid, the supplies stocked, the building running, and helping to navigate the twisty maze of passages all alike that is the state financial requirements. in other words, i help create and maintain red tape.

the crime lab is fascinating. i got to see a twelve inch blade used to kill somebody, the drug locker which reeked of crystal meth, the big tank of water they shoot the guns into, and the large machine they fume superglue in for prints. pretty much anything you have seen on an episode of CSI is in my building. except the dead bodies. we only do body parts and fetuses. all bodies go to the medical examiners office in boston.

in fact, here is a list in ways that the massachusetts crime lab is not like CSI:

on CSI, you will see the same character go from processing latent prints to doing a mass spectrometer analysis of a liquid to spinning out DNA
in the state crime lab, there is no such thing as a generalist. if you do DNA analysis, you only do DNA analysis. you do it all day long. chemistry and biology, for example, are totally different departments.

on CSI, you can get DNA run in about 10 minutes.
in the state crime lab, we have a DNA backlog that stretches back about three years. some current cases can take priority, but that just means it will be done in weeks instead of months.

on CSI, the people get to drive hummers to crime scenes.
in the state crime lab, our crime scene service personnel drive ford focuses.

on CSI, the crime lab is cutting edge with the latest technology in a huge beautiful building that is modern and spacious.
in the state crime lab, we are cramped into an old converted elementary school and have to beg borrow and steal to fund new equipment. until this week they were still using an old fish tank turned upside-down to fume superglue in. we have up to four people sharing a desk and not enough computers to go around. one of our satellite sites is in a building that just got condemned by the state.

So all in all, it ain't quite CSI, but it's still a cool and interesting place to work. once i get a phone and computer i will be able to talk more about what i actually do. right now what i do is read a lot of manuals and try to take it all in.

2 comments:

Pandora said...

Thanks for the update, lady! I always kind of wanted to work in a crime lab, but I thought the scientists got to do more than it sounds like from your description. What causes the DNA backlog? I don't suppose I'd ever have the option, anyway, if everyone has to pass the same kind of background check you did. *whistles innocently*

bandit said...

the scientists *do* get to do some cool stuff. i think the main reason you might not want to jump ship and come to the crime lab would be the dramatic pay cut it would mean for you.

let's face it... there is a reason most of the scientists commute down from new hampshire each day.

the DNA backlog is caused by a number of factors. the most prevalent, i would guess, would be the dramatic increase in the popularity of DNA. people now view it as the difinitive litmus test for criminal culpability. DA's love DNA because juries love DNA. in fact, some jurors now simply won't find a defendant guilty without DNA, even if it's not available or not applicable.