debunking csi…

the television show ‘crime scene investigation’ is one of the most popular crime shows of all-time…

but, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate…

and that matters for students pursuing careers in criminal justice…

because a lot of the kids that show up in my classes are there, in large part, because of what they’ve seen on that show…and they want to “do that”…

if you haven’t figured it out by now, i teach criminal justice, at both the high school and college levels…and one of my favorite lessons is the one i call “debunking csi” 🙂  my motivation for doing this lesson is not to “slam” a show that millions of people love to watch or to be overly cynical about life in general…that’s not my style…but, my objective is to “be real” and upfront about what crime scene investigators “really do for their jobs”…before my students drop a significant amount of cash on a csi degree…that, and the fact that “thinking critically” is a really important thing in my classroom and “on the job”…

anyways, it’s a simple classroom lesson…

so, what do we do?

well, a couple times a year we will go through an episode of csi and identify the things that we see the crime scene investigators doing in the show…once we’ve done that, we break it down…and identify the things that crime scene investigators do “in real life”…

here are the actions i have them track:

INTERROGATES A SUSPECT

INTERVIEWS A WITNESS

COLLECTS EVIDENCE*

USES A GUN

TELLS INVESTIGATORS WHAT TO DO

TESTS EVIDENCE*

USES HIGH-END TECHNOLOGY

CARRIES A GUN

GETS A SUPER-QUICK RESULT ON DNA/PRINTS/BLOOD

afterwards, we look at their tally sheets…interestingly enough, from following just one episode, they will have several marks in each of the above categories…it’s no wonder kids (and adults) think the way they do…so, i’m quick to point out two categories that are actually the csi’s job:

a) collecting evidence

&

b) testing evidence

while you see the actors doing all of the things on the above list…crime scene investigators don’t do all of those things “in real life”…most of what you see them doing: from interviewing suspects and witnesses to brandishing firearms to getting ‘super-quick results on an evidence test’ just doesn’t happen and it definitely doesn’t happen in an hour’s time…those are things that police officers, detectives, and federal agents do…additionally, they don’t tell police officers and detectives what to do…they are part of team that usually has a lead detective (and the crime scene investigators or crime scene unit would be reporting their findings to him/her)…another point of fact is that police officers, detectives and federal agents are trained in the collection of physical evidence, though they regularly leave that task to the crime scene unit…

so, at this point, i always ask my students: is being a csi is really what you want to do???

only a few of the students reply with a “YES!”

for the others, i always recommend another show…one that follows real life detectives through the course of an actual investigation…

the show is called “the first 48″…

and it’s highly recommended…

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