There are seven members of the Fayetteville Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID). Five are sworn officers. Two are civilians. Together, they solve crimes and help bring criminals to justice.
Within the CID, the five sworn personnel work as detectives. The other two are the City’s Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) Katherine Bell and Ariel Hall, and their mission is to gather as much physical evidence as possible, as quickly and effectively as possible.
“We work closely with the detectives upstairs,” said Hall, who along with Bell became the department’s first civilian CSI team a little more than a year ago. “We help more in the beginning. A lot of our work happens right after the crime.”
Hall explained that those first few hours after a crime happens are the best for collecting evidence, which is why, while they work regular office hours together, they also take turns being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Evidence is fragile,” Hall said. “It disappears.”
While crime scene evidence is being collected, Bell and Hall are escorted by a sworn, armed police officer, and then they take that evidence back to their office at police headquarters. It’s their laboratory, and there they can further analyze and catalog the evidence. Whether its looking at suspected drugs under a powerful microscope or using equipment to lift fingerprints, the CSIs use science and the latest technology to make the most of what they found on the scene.
Sometimes their work involves preparing evidence to be sent to the state crime lab.
Beyond crime scenes, Bell and Hall also process information from suicides and any unintended deaths, and back at police headquarters they manage the Evidence and Property Room. At a minimum, items in that room are retained for 90 days. By statute, some items must be kept for 99 years.
What does it take to become a CSI? More and more in recent years, law enforcement agencies are dropping the requirement for CSIs to be sworn officers, but CSI candidates must still complete a rigorous training program that can take up to two years. Bell and Hall were both trained at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth before joining the Fayetteville Police Department in Sept. 2017.