Make this page my home page
  1. Drag the home icon in this panel and drop it onto the "house icon" in the tool bar for the browser

  2. Select "Yes" from the popup window and you're done!

January 29, 2010
Print Comment RSS

PoliceOne Staff How to Buy...
with PoliceOne Staff

How to buy crime scene investigation products

Here are some things to consider when purchasing CSI equipment

By Tim Dees

The typical citizen may believe you can trot out every shiny gadget they’ve seen on TV to investigate the break-in of their lawn shed, but we know different. With a limited, real-world budget, what do you buy? Here are some things to consider when purchasing CSI products:

What’s your experience?
Every jurisdiction has its own crime profile. Do you investigate more auto thefts than burglaries? How often do you handle a sexual assault? Your purchases should fall in line with the cases you process. Think about where you came up short in the past, and what could have remedied the situation. Your prosecutor’s office should have a voice here, as they know what evidence they need to make a winnable case.

Request product info from top Investigation companies.
First: *
Last: *
Department: *
Department size: *
Email: *
Zip Code: *
Telephone: *
I recommend or purchase products for my Department: *
Purchasing Timeframe: *
*Required Field

Can you homebrew?
A specially designed “rape kit” is certainly handy, and available for purchase ready-made. They’re also costly, and contain glass slides, swabs, combs and other items you can buy separately or obtain from a local hospital. Pre-package these so your investigator doesn’t have to do it on the fly, and save some money for other things. Evidence markers with a built-in photo scale can be fabricated from giveaway plastic rulers. An old aquarium makes an adequate fuming chamber. Be creative.

Basics are important
Equipment for basic tasks like dusting for latent prints has to be readily available and serviceable, or your officers will “forget” to collect this evidence. Precut “lifters” are much easier to use than a roll of plastic tape. Elimination prints won’t get taken unless there’s a decent kit at the scene.

Shelf life
Buying in bulk may be false economy. Drug field test kits, fuming cartridges, batteries and other consumable items don’t last indefinitely, especially if they’re stored under less-than-ideal conditions, like the trunk of a patrol car. Buy only what you expect to use before these items deteriorate.

Big ticket purchases
Investment in a major piece of equipment usually means training someone to use it. How often will re-training or update training be required? If your operator(s) leaves the agency, does the equipment fall idle? Have you considered the recurring cost of consumables like reagents, film, sample containers, etc.?

Whether you have had to buy a service is a big factor in assessing whether you really need the benefit of an expensive device. How much did that service cost, how many times did you use it, and how many times would you have used it if it had been available in-house? Obtaining funding can be contingent on showing what savings you will realize by having the desired gear.

And, just in case you didn’t know, about half the stuff you see on CSI doesn’t exist.

Tim Dees is a retired police officer and the former editor of two major law enforcement websites who writes and consults on technology applications in criminal justice. He can be reached at tim@timdees.com.

About the author

PoliceOne Staff Reports feature contributions from our vast universe of subject matter experts. These sources include our own cadre of columnists as well as industry analysts, educators, and other noted specialists in their fields. P1 Staff Reports focus on an array of subjects including product reviews, product round-up features, “How to Buy” articles, and when necessary, product recalls and safety alerts. If you want to join our panel of experts, or have suggestions for topics we should cover here, please e-mail products@policeone.com with your feedback.



PoliceOne Offers


Investigation Sponsors

Featured Distributor

Featured Products

Assisted Patrol for Investigators - catch repeat offenders without stakeouts

Assisted Patrol for Investigators - catch repeat offenders without stakeouts



AFIX Verifier®

AFIX Verifier®




Featured Videos

Top Product Articles

Featured Product Categories

Investigation Questions

PoliceOne Offers