Home Career What you Need to Know about Forensic Investigations: Two Veterans Share Experiences in New Book

What you Need to Know about Forensic Investigations: Two Veterans Share Experiences in New Book

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By Michael Sale

During my travels as the Canadian law enforcement education coordinator for American Military University, I often encounter people who are pursuing police careers. Some will even admit that their interest in policing was prompted by the exciting world they see portrayed on their favorite television episode of CSI. I don’t believe there has ever been a time when so many were captivated by police science, a passion fueled by countless stories that feature the latest methods for catching criminals through effective crime-scene management and supporting technology. So the timing couldn’t be better for the release of a new textbook that will guide the would-be CSI sleuth through many of the subjects needed to master the craft of today’s real-life, careful, plodding, thorough, forensic practitioner.

Crime Scene Investigation: Theory, Practice, Technique and Law rolled off the presses at Carswell ‘s Toronto publishing center on January 31, 2013. Co-authors Brian Ward and Mark Heerema have conspired to put together 214 pages of fascinating insight and instruction that delves deeply into the serious business of crime scene investigation.

This book is an excellent read for the veteran detective, the street cop, prosecutors and those contemplating careers in these fields.

I know Brian Ward and it was fun to watch from a distance as he committed himself to this project and endured all the anxiety that one can expect as publication day approaches. When I was with the (Metropolitan) Toronto Police, and Brian was establishing a reputation as one of our best crime-scene specialists, a number of high-profile murder cases led to the development of Ontario’s first major case management strategy. 

Perhaps the most notorious case was the investigation into the murders committed by school-girl killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. I was a public affairs officer at the time, managing the news and constant media presence from the moment of arrest through to the prosecution. I vividly recall watching television reports from Paul Bernardo’s St. Catharines, Ontario home. Over and over again, we would see police officers from Metropolitan Toronto and Niagara Region, in their white crime scene suits, going into and out of this house of horror for what seemed like weeks on end (see p. 87). Brian Ward was one of those forensic investigators and his contribution to the collection, coordination and presentation of evidence for court was a critical element to a successful prosecution. In retirement, Brian continues to share his knowledge and experience with others and he has done a fine job of that with Crime Scene Investigation.

Mark Heerema is an accomplished crown prosecutor in Nova Scotia who provides important legal references that complement Brian Ward’s forensic methods. He clearly explains that a crime scene specialist must know the relevant law before beginning to collect evidence. Once legal authority has been established to begin the collection of evidence, this activity will be influenced greatly by the way in which it will be introduced in court where its value will be reviewed and critiqued by others. It becomes obvious that a comprehensive examination of a crime scene can be totally undone if anything has been accomplished outside an established set of legal requirements.

Crime Scene Investigation takes the reader on a historical journey with modern twists covering everything from fingerprints to DNA. A chapter entitled “Sudden Death and Not So Sudden Death provides a sober reminder that crime scene investigations can be messy and unpleasant, in spite of the wonderful science that can unravel mysteries. The quality of the color photographs used throughout the book, and in the “Sudden Death” chapter in particular, sharpens the senses, almost like being there.

This textbook yields access to the experience and insight of two men who have enjoyed productive careers in criminal investigations and prosecutions.

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