Forensic Investigations

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Article Courtesy of:  The University of Texas Brownsville


It is our belief that as the criminal justice system continues to evolve academic programs dedicated to teaching criminal justice studies must become more involved in delivering courses on forensic investigation to students. With the recent creation of television programs like CSI, CSI: Miami, and Forensic Files, there is an increased student demand for these types of courses. But the catalyst that drives the need for criminal justice programs to assist in the development of forensic investigation courses has little to do with the increased demand for these courses created by Hollywood’s fascination with forensic investigations and crime scene analysis. As technology develops that can potentially aid criminal justice practitioners in their pursuit of justice in individual cases it is necessary to deliver this information to future criminal justice practitioners in an accurate and efficient manner.

The term forensic investigation refers to the use of science or technology in the investigation and establishment of facts or evidence to be used in criminal justice or other proceedings. Forensic investigation is a rather broad field with many different subdivisions. The American Academy of Forensic Science and the International Association for Identification are major professional organization that advances the application of scientific methods and their application in the legal system. Interested persons are highly encouraged to regularly review these websites for career information, current job listings, training course opportunities, and certification body-of -knowledge requirements. Adjunctive disciplines with subspecialties for forensically trained professionals are present such as in forensic nursing, forensic social work, computational forensics, forensic accounting, forensic anthropology, forensic photography, among others. Interestingly enough, journalists have recently begun seeking forensic training to expand their careers as crime writers or as public information officers in criminal justice agencies.

Forensic investigation is increasingly playing an important role in the pursuit of justice. But the use of forensic investigation is not the straightforward endeavor that is portrayed in many television programs and other mass media sources. Forensic investigation is very complex. Forensic investigation techniques, when used appropriately, can be an incredible tool for practitioners and society. But used inappropriately, forensic investigation techniques can generate error and injustice in the system. For information about death row exonerations due to the misapplication of forensic investigation techniques, please see the Death Penalty Information Center’s pages on Forensic Science Misconduct and Unreliable/Limited Science.

The Department currently offers and courses leading to either an Associate of Arts in Forensic Investigations or an Institutional Award in Forensic Investigation.

These programs were approved in 2008 and will be offered for students for the first time in the Fall Semester of 2008.

  • Associate of Arts in Forensic Investigation
  • Institutional Award in Forensic Investigation

The Associates degree is primarily designed to accommodate students who seek the requisite knowledge and skills to: 1) work as practitioners in the criminal justice system in the area of forensic investigation in the capacity of crime scene investigators; 2) obtain the required competencies in preparation for national certification examinations, and/or 3) continue for a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or another discipline with a solid, applied pre-professional qualification. Criminal justice majors may pursue the Institutional Award in Forensic Investigation; however, it was primarily developed to accommodate students who major in other disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, accounting, chemistry, nursing, emergency medical technician, computer science, journalism, psychology, paralegal studies, photography, and social work) that are indirectly linked to aspects of the criminal justice system’s use of forensic investigations and/or have forensic career tracks and subspecialties within in their professional discipline. Each of these fields has possible career tracks that would be enhanced by the pre-service credentialing and skill set provided by the training in the Institutional Award.

The Institutional Award is particularly well-suited to the natural science major who seeks supplemental forensic investigation training directed toward eventual employment in a crime lab or graduate study in a forensic-related discipline. The Institutional Award is also ideal for the practitioner in criminal justice, protective services, health care and others fields seeking credentialing and special skills development, or even a career change. In both the case of the Associates and Institutional Award, eligible students will be permitted to sit for the Certified Crime Scene Investigator (CCSI) national examination. The candidate may be awarded their CCSI upon successful completion of the required 18-months of on-the-job crime scene-related employment that must be achieved within 5-years of successful completion of the certification examination.

Each of these programs will be coordinated by Professor Michael Lytle. Professor Lytle is a forensic criminalist and educator with an extensive background in forensic science and investigation techniques.

The Forensic Investigations Academic Achievement perpetual plaque hangs in the forensics lab honoring the top performer of each class section. Recipients receive a copy of Fish, Miller, & Braswell’s book Crime Scene Investigation, which is part of the IAI’s senior crime scene analyst certification body of knowledge. Recipients are also awarded a courtesy enrollment in the Fundamentals of Forensic Investigation distance education short-course of the American Institute of Applied Science.



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