Scene Preservation

All extracts are taken from the “Safer Doors” book. Published by Geddes and Grossett. Copyright laws apply.

Should a serious offence occur on the licensed premises at which you are working, then you are in an ideal position once the incident itself has ended to take charge of any possible crime scene until the arrival of the police. Valuable evidence can be lost within seconds following a serious assault for example, making the police’s job much more difficult to trace and prosecute any offenders. Door supervisors need to immediately take charge of any scene following an incident, establishing physical command of the area until police arrive, so ensuring the preservation of any vital forensic evidence.

There are four important principles to good scene preservation:-

  1. Preventing evidence from being contaminated ie adding footprints to a scene, or leaving any other items at the scene which were not there at the time;
  2. Preventing evidence from being destroyed ie smudging fingerprints, or walking on footprints in blood;
  3. Preventing evidence from being removed ie glasses or weapons being moved, or furniture being re-arranged;
  4. Preventing evidence from being moved ie unnecessary tidying up when the positions of items may be of importance.

These principles are best upheld by noting or even recording details of a scene prior to moving anything, covering or retrieving any items which may be of importance for later examination, only allowing people who absolutely need to be at the scene anywhere near it, and by immediately informing the first police officers at the scene of the nature and the location of anything you think may be of value to the investigation. The decisions you make at the outset, and how you communicate your actions to the police, may greatly affect any investigation.

Scientific or ‘forensic’ evidence as it is called, is vital to the police for linking suspects to victims, scenes and weapons. It is also used to prove or disprove people’s stories, to eliminate suspects and to answer other questions which may arise during the course of an investigation. This is why door supervisors need to identify a possible crime scene following a serious incident, so that they can evaluate the scene from a safe distance, consider the possibilities of forensic evidence, preserve as much as they can and certainly anything they particularly consider will be of use to the police, and then inform the first officers at the scene what they have seen and what they have done.

Remember:-

CRIME SCENE ? – EVALUATE – PRESERVE – INFORM

If door supervisors remember the four ways in which forensic evidence is lost, and the three actions to take on identifying a possible crime scene, then they will be doing as much as can be expected to assist the police on any subsequent crime enquiry

FINGERPRINTS
At the end of the last century it was discovered that people have very distinctive patterns of skin ridges on their hands and feet, and that although those ridges run roughly parallel to each other they also change directions in different places, forming definite distinctive patterns. These marks, commonly referred to as fingerprints, are most noticable on the fingers and thumbs. The varying characteristics can be identified and compared, and remain the same on a person for the whole of his or her life.

It is an as yet undisputed fact that no two people have the same fingerprint patterns, so fingerprint evidence is invaluable for identifying suspects, prosecuting offenders and eliminating suspects.

Fingermarks are deposited when the finger tips touch smooth surfaces and leave marks made from the sweat between the ridges. Marks can also be left if a suspect’s heavily bloodstained fingers touch some types of surface, by leaving the impression from the ridges of the fingers on the surface.

When moving any article of any possible fingerprint value, such as a bloodstained knife or a broken beer glass used in an assault, door supervisors must be careful not to leave their own fingermarks on top of the suspect’s, or smudge them so that they are no longer of any evidential value. Although your fingerprints can obviously be eliminated from the enquiry, if you have to preserve an article it is often better if at all possible just to cover the article so that it cannot be touched by anyone until the police arrive and take it away for forensic examination.

Shiny, smooth surfaces like glass or metal are good for retaining fingermarks, so certainly any bottles, glasses, knives or firearms should wherever possible be preserved for examination by a police Scenes of Crime Officer.

BLOOD
At the scene of a serious assault or fight there may well be traces of blood on people’s clothing, on weapons, or on floors, walls, ceilings and furniture.

Blood is extremely useful to the police in the investigation of serious crimes because it can be grouped to identify suspects, and to collaborate victim’s allegations. The interpretation of blood splattering can also be used by examining traces found on suspect’s or victim’s clothes, or any other surfaces where drops of blood have landed, to determine such things as how many blows were used in an attack, the positions of the victim and the attacker at the time of the assault and even sometimes the actual sequence of the blows or events.

Bloodstained weapons and other items should be preserved for fingerprint examination. Walls, ceilings and furniture with blood splattering should be left untouched, and particular care needs to be taken to preserve footprints in blood so that they are not destroyed by people walking on top of them.

Blood can also be used for DNA profiling, which can provide extremely strong or even conclusive evidence in serious offences like murder, woundings and sexual assaults. A bloodstain the size of a 10p piece is enough to provide a DNA profile of a suspect. Fragments of flesh or pieces of skin can also be used.

Blood ‘grouping’ on the other hand can help scientists to say that a sample of blood could have come from a certain person, but that it definitely could not have come from someone else. It can, therefore, only ever be very strong corroborative evidence, but not conclusive.

FOOTWEAR MARKS
Footwear marks, often called foorprints, even if not visible to the human eye, can be found at most crime scenes. Providing that they are not destroyed during the seconds or minutes immediately following an incident they can be of very high evidential value as they can often provide definite information or conclusions. Boot or shoe prints can be recovered from almost any surface if it is not disturbed, and can even identify each shoe print absolutely, linking suspects to victims and scenes, or even identifying suspects from scratch.

As the undersoles of shoes and boots become unevenly worn the surface builds up its own unique print. Footprints in blood on a carpet or prints in mud outside should be covered to preserve them until the arrival of police.

FIREARMS
It is a sad fact of life that each year more firearms incidents are reported to the police. Many of those incidents occur on or near to licensed premises, often in relation to robberies or the misuse and illegal sale of drugs.

Where firearms have been discharged during a shooting incident the forensic examination of bullets, cartridges, shotgun wadding and even the firearm itself if present can lead to the successful prosecution of offenders.

Following such an incident it is important that a wide area is sealed off for the police so that evidence is not lost or damaged.

If firearms are found at the premises, even if not actually fired, the safety of the staff and customers must be the first priority. Nobody should be allowed to walk in front of the muzzle of the weapon until it has been deemed as safe by a qualified firearms specialist from the police. It should not be moved if at all possible, and certainly should not be handled unnecessarily in case it is unsafe and accidentally discharges. The possibility of fingerprint evidence must also be considered, so it is normally better just to leave the weapon where it is found, and for a door supervisor just to guard it until it can be checked and recovered by the police.

HEALTH AND SAFETY
In any situation where supervisors are dealing with blood or other body fluids they should wear rubber gloves to protect themselves from possible infection.

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