You've watched Silent Witness but I'm a CSI for GMP and this is what the job is really like

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“No matter what, there will always be a trace."

Being a CSI officer has never been cooler. No more are the classic detectives the star of TV dramas - now it's those who forensically examine crime scenes for evidence. 

Whether it’s Silent Witness from the BBC, or the celebrated American drama that has been on screens for nearly 20 years, there’s an audience gripped by those who can find the vital piece of science to put someone behind bars. But what’s the reality? Pennie, one of GMP’s Crime Scene Investigators, has been giving an insight into what the real-life Jack Hodgson actually does. 

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Pennie, who works in CSI for GMP, takes a look around a stolen vehicle.Pennie, who works in CSI for GMP, takes a look around a stolen vehicle.
Pennie, who works in CSI for GMP, takes a look around a stolen vehicle. | GMP

“I like how we can help detectives to understand where the investigation is going by using science,” she says. “No matter what, there will always be a trace, and it is so satisfying when we find fingerprints and DNA which can then place somebody to a scene. 

“The first step in solving a case lies with what we recover. It’s imperative that we get it right so officers have a watertight case to take to court.”

As an example, it takes Pennie around four hours to completely examine this stolen vehicle used to flee the scene of a burglary. First she takes a look at the CCTV of the incident before deciding on the best strategy to gather evidence with other CSI experts. 

Silent Witness is one show that has shone a light on the work of CSIs. Silent Witness is one show that has shone a light on the work of CSIs.
Silent Witness is one show that has shone a light on the work of CSIs. | BBC/Kieron McCarron

Then Pennie grabs pictures of the interior and exterior of the car to showcase where items were placed. Once that’s complete she looks inside the vehicle looking for anything she could see that may leave a suspect’s trace. A puffer jacket is recovered from this particular vehicle which is laid out on sterile brown paper before pictures are taken and it is put in an evidence bag to be sent off to the forensic labs for further examination. 

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The windows are then dusted down with powder to highlight any fingerprints so Pennie can lift them as evidence to place a suspect in the car. 

“We are trained to expect the unexpected, and every environment we attend is different,” Pennie says. “Sometimes we aren’t in the most glamorous of situations, but we have a job to do, which can ultimately result in criminals facing justice for their crimes. I enjoy the decision-making that comes with the role and deciding how I approach a new scene never gets old.”

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