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Crime Scene Investigator Talk with Cst. Stephen Berney
Stephen Berney moved to the Edmonton area with his family in 1999. Stephen attended St. Francis Xavier High School where he was enrolled in the Soccer Academy, which had the highlight of playing exhibition games in Italy. After high school, Stephen attended the University of Alberta where he completed a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology degree.
When looking at potential careers, Stephen focused his attention on careers he felt would make the greatest positive impact for the community he lives in. Naturally, the Edmonton Police Service was at the top of his list and 2 months after graduating from university, he was hired in the fall of 2014.
At the beginning of his career, Stephen met his wife Julia who is also a member of the EPS. In the following 8 years, Stephen worked in Northwest Division in patrol for 5 years, and has now nearly completed his 3rd year in the Crime Scenes Investigation Unit.
In his free time, Stephen enjoys visiting family and friends, playing soccer, ball hockey, flag football and traveling, notably to visit Julia’s family in Poland.
Police officers protect the public, detect and prevent crime and perform other activities directed at maintaining law and order. They are employed by municipal and federal governments and some provincial and regional governments.
Patrol assigned areas to maintain public safety and order and to enforce laws and regulations.
Investigate crimes and accidents, execute search warrants, secure evidence, interview witnesses, compile notes and reports and provide testimony in courts of law.
Apprehend and arrest criminal suspects. Provide emergency assistance to victims of accidents, crimes and natural disasters. Participate in crime prevention, public information and safety programs. May supervise and coordinate the work of other police officers.
Labour demand and labour supply are expected to be broadly in line for this occupation group over the 2019-2028 period at the national level.
Completion of secondary school is required.
Completion of a college program or university degree in law and security or in the social sciences is usually required.
A three- to six-month police training program is provided.
Physical agility, strength, fitness and vision requirements must be met, and psychological or other tests may also be required.
Experience as a constable and the completion of specialized courses are required for detectives and sergeants.
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Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Today’s guest is Stephen Berney Here’s our Job Talk with a crime scene investigator.
Welcome to The Job Talk Podcast, where we talk with people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges, surprises and secrets to success in their industries through conversation.
And we explore their careers, past work experiences, and the education that got them to where they are now.
How accurate are television and movies when it comes to crime scene investigation? There’s just a lot of things that are actually pretty darn accurate, and you kind of get surprised about, I guess, how well they portray the CSI aspect of the job.
My wife, her guilty pleasure is CSI Las Vegas, just rebooted.
And there’s, I think just this past fall, I believe there was a new the new season came out.
And of course, she asked me to watch it with her.
And I think she might ask me not to watch the next season either, because I say, oh, this is pretty accurate when they’re using certain chemical processes.
But then there’s other things too that are just definitely Hollywood portrayals that kind of make things a little more dramatic and stretch the limits of, I guess, what we can do.
I wish we could do all the things that they could do because they’d be no crime in the world except could solve everything.
But some of the stuff they do, an amazing job like especially chemical processes.
And when they’re treating exhibits, they actually clearly done their homework and they they really get an accurate depiction of what we’re doing in the lab, too.
So it’s pretty cool.
Is your wife a police officer as well? She is, yes.
And my wife, her and I have both been with the police for eight years.
We both met actually in recruit class.
So I definitely get an interesting perspective chatting with her about some stuff she’s in patrol right now and she’s also a bomb technician.
So I get a lot of cool conversations happen at my house.
I nerd out and talk about the forensic stuff and she tells me about everything else going on.
Let’s go back to when you left high school.
What was your first post-secondary experience? So right after high school, I went to the University of Alberta and I was enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology.
And so that’s a four year program.
I thought as soon as I started my program, I thought two things that I might want to do.
Police officer is my number one.
I always want to be a police officer.
Number two is this, you know, I needed to do something else or whichever.
This didn’t work out as I wanted to be a physiotherapist and typically kinesiology.
Is that the first stepping stone to kind of work towards the physio side? So that’s my four and a half.
Four is four and a half years because there’s also a practicum involved is kinesiology.
So so you finished your degree at the University of Alberta.
Did you immediately look to the recruitment for police? Did you jump into jump into that? Yeah.
So I would say right about my second year in kinesiology, I started to look at what I had to do for basically make myself a successful candidate to get in with the Edmonton Police Service.
So there’s some options obviously available and you have to fill certain credits so you can go outside of your faculty.
So I looked at criminology courses and whatnot at the at the U of A, which I ended up taking.
And also there’s like I mentioned, there’s a practicum portion for the kinesiology degree.
And one of the options you can actually take your practicum with the police service fitness unit.
So that involves making exercise programs, assisting with the fitness testing that all of the members have to complete on a yearly basis.
And also a lot of the return to work stuff or rehab, because guys pick up injuries either on the job or, you know, playing sports or just anything else as they come to the fitness unit.
A lot just to see if they can find a way to improve on a certain score category or just, like I say, get back to feeling good and being able to play a sport outside of work.
How was the training experience to become a police officer? Did you enjoy it? Yeah, that’s.
I enjoyed some of it.
You know, it’s it really is.
I find it it was a great training.
Obviously, you get a lot of a lot of classroom knowledge and stuff.
You have to learn about the criminal code and provincial and municipal.
So basically all the other things you can do as a police officer and you know, what the what bounds we have to stay within and where our where our powers of arrest come from, stuff like that.
And also they put a pretty big emphasis on physical fitness.
So there’s a lot of the physical aspect of it.
Yeah, it’s a paramilitary training, so there’s a lot of punishment if things don’t go how they should or whichever.
So and obviously we’re always a team, so we’re always completing things as a team.
So it really it builds a great good base for you as you leave and start on on the streets.
You got to patrol first.
Yeah, it builds a great base for obviously your physical fitness.
You’re coming out with a lot of knowledge, but then you also get to learn all the the practical knowledge from from a field trainer, which it’s I think it’s a great program.
It’s about six months of training before you even get to the street.
And it’s I don’t think you’re ever fully prepared for your first day, but it’s about as close as you can be to be prepared, I think.
Did you have a favorite part of your training? Because I believe my brother in law is a police officer and mentioned that you guys do everything from boxing to, you know, learning to drive properly.
Was was there anything that that stuck out as kind of your favorite part of training? You know, I think my favorite part was, I think our emergency vehicle operation.
So learning how to drive a police car, learning how to you know, there’s a lot of there’s a couple of road courses that we did and there’s a lot of specific activities that you have to be able to pass to get signed off to be able to obviously operate a police vehicle.
So it’s pretty fun, obviously going out and trying to operate a vehicle to the limits of the vehicle and obviously staying within your own limits, but doing things safely, but also in a way that you can respond to a call quickly.
So yeah, I really enjoyed it.
It was ours.
Our training was in the winter as well, so it threw in a little bit of an extra wrench in the plans because ah, I remember one of our training day where we did our main driving course.
It was freezing rain.
So trying to operate a police vehicle and it was the old Crown Victoria, right? Yeah.
So it’s just the rear wheel drive and just a lot of sliding and fish tailing and yeah, it’s something you have to, it’s good to learn in those conditions that are not very good because then obviously you can apply that out to the the streets where there’s other vehicles and other things that you can account for outside of the track.
Right? Yeah, it was the driving was definitely fun.
Did you graduate and enter the force? You mentioned that you start off in patrol.
I kind of want to gloss over it because I want to get into your current position as a crime scene investigator.
How long were you on patrol and what’s what brought you to becoming a crime scene investigator? Yes, I was in patrol for five years, so I worked out of the Northwest Division campus.
So it’s the new building in Edmonton here.
Now, I didn’t unfortunately get to work in the nice new building.
I was outside in like a little satellite station until this new one was built.
Yeah, but I always.
Yeah, it’s funny with policing as you get, there’s so many different places you can go at look to go within the within EPS as a especially as a constable, there’s just depending on where your interest lies.
So pretty, pretty early on in my career, I had a lot of exposure to the crime scene team.
You know, what they do, what files they work on, how they can assist in your investigations.
And that just immediately kind of drew me in to the to the unit.
And the idea of being able to help identify a suspect where you have nothing, there’s no video surveillance, there’s no witnesses, no eyewitnesses.
And you know, that little piece, you know that little drop of blood or that fingerprint that an investigator can find might totally change the scope of the case.
And it didn’t hurt to have my uncle actually was a crime scene investigator for about 12 years before me.
So I had a lot of opportunities to ask him questions and he kind of fostered my interests in a lot of ways and kind of told me the good, the bad and the ugly of the job.
So I had a really good understanding, understanding I think, going in.
So I just loved the idea of being able to assist in an investigation where maybe there’s dead ends everywhere, but we might be able to provide that one one avenue that you’ll have a suspect or at least something to follow up on.
What kind of cases do you work on? It’s probably not all just homicide, I’m assuming.
No, no, there’s basically if you can think of the if the crime type will work on it, if there’s something there for us to do.
So there’s anything from a recovered stolen vehicle that has drink containers, blood, an aunt or anything like that, or even just applying fingerprint powder to the inside of recovered vehicles around the outside.
There’s typically your break and enters.
We go to a lot of those, especially for people’s houses and businesses.
Some of the industrial stuff as well, robberies.
There’s sexual assaults and assaults of all types.
As you mentioned, there’s homicides that we we if there’s a homicide, we’re obviously we’re out there every time.
But there’s basically any time there’s a victim and there’s any any chance that there’s forensic evidence being, you know, the DNA or the fingerprints were were typically there and working on those files with investigators to try to obviously help their investigation, provide as much evidence as possible.
How closely do you work with forensic scientists? And I’m assuming there’s a difference between a crime scene investigator and an and a forensic scientist? Definitely, yeah.
So the scientists are basically we we deal with them a lot indirectly, actually.
So it’s funny, when you meet them face to face, they say we kind of say, oh, I seen your name on a bunch of papers and they’ve seen my name on a bunch of papers, but there’s not a lot of face to face interaction.
Yeah, but the forensic scientists are obviously huge for us.
They, they typically have like a master’s.
So it’s quite a bit more training than someone like myself.
And they are doing a lot of the interpretation of DNA profiles that I send.
So if I swab, for example, some blood at a scene and I said, send that swab to the to the lab for analysis, they’ll be the ones kind of interpreting, interpreting the DNA profiles.
And a lot of the times we get mixtures because obviously, you know, some people share drink bottles or something like that, right? So if you get a mixture and a drink bottle, they can sometimes tease out one or both of those profiles and be able to say male, female or two males or whichever.
So we deal with them quite a bit, but really indirectly, a lot of a lot of the time it’s they send us their forensic report and we send in our request and kind of the details of the case.
So they’re very smart people and amazing to have as a resource because we do a lot of case consults with them as well, asking them, hey, what do you think is the best, the most probative piece of evidence we can send you to try to get a DNA profile for each case? So they’re invaluable and they’re a huge part of our obviously our success for the DNA side.
Yeah, I imagine your day to day changes all the time that it probably isn’t just your typical day on the job, but can you talk a little bit about maybe talk about a homicide scene that you showed up and kind of take us through what you do on a case like that? Yeah.
So you hit the nail on the head like that’s one of the things I love about the job is there’s the typical day is what you just walk into the day and you don’t know what your what you have on the docket.
But so for a homicide, typically our supervisor, the sergeant of our squad, he’ll get a phone call kind of notifying us of the investigation.
And that’s kind of where we start.
And we kind of gather up and take notes on all the facts of the case so far.
And there’s obviously a lot of liaising with homicide detectives, the first patrol members on the scene.
Basically, anyone who’s already been involved in the case will get that information either directly from that person or typically the homicide detectives already have kind of a close notes of everything that’s happened so far.
So typically what we’ll have a little bit of a briefing before we attend the scene, just to know, okay, you know, maybe was there a weapon used, yes or no? You know, kind of what are we looking for? What type of what type of scene is it? Is there, you know, a lot of considerations.
We have a lot of specialties within crime scenes as well, like bloodstain pattern analysts like.
Is that something we need to think about? So there’s a lot of pre-planning actually to it.
I’ll just pause you there for a second.
So did you ever watch the TV show Dexter? I didn’t see Dexter.
Oh, I know the premise of it.
I actually ever watch it.
You just you you reminded me of that show when you said blood splatter experts.
Yes, I know.
And it’s on my list.
So one of the things to watch.
I want people have mentioned it a bunch of times, but haven’t got around to it yet.
Maybe we’ll do a follow up interview after you watch that show.
So, yeah, so there’s a lot of preplanning.
Because we have a lot of equipment that we have to bring in.
Obviously, it’s a lot case specific, but after we kind of have our little briefing, the sergeant attends any homicide scene as well as two constables in our unit.
So those constables are assigned to different roles.
Either the forensic photographer, which is just as it sounds, their job is basically to document the scene through the use of photographs, photographs, photographing the exhibits, fingerprints, just the scene in general.
And then there’s the exhibit handler.
So that person’s job is strictly obviously designating seizing collecting, processing those exhibits for DNA, fingerprints, all those things.
So once we have the team set, we’ll go out to the go out to the scene.
And the first thing we do there is we do a walk through.
So before we before we do anything else, we’re walking through as a team.
We’re looking at the scene, seeing kind of obviously what we’re dealing with.
And this is the first time where we can start to talk about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it.
And contamination, obviously, is a huge part of crime scenes investigation.
So we’re our our whole goal is to minimize contamination.
So we establish the past and we’re going to take every single time so we don’t walk around and contaminate the scene any more than physically having to do that.
And that also includes probably seen us in the tyvek suits, those like white bunny suits.
Yep, either on the CSI shows or sometimes the news captures us in those.
So that’s obviously to do that as well.
So we’re not bringing stuff in from our boots or uniform, all that other stuff.
And we obviously take really detailed notes.
The photographer takes all of their photos, so there’s a thing in Latin, it’s sicut estu, it’s basically as it is.
So we don’t want to touch the scene until we fully documented everything.
So homicide scenes are extremely complicated and long and we take our absolute time with those as much as we can.
So there’s a lot.
By the time you document and seize exhibits and bring things back, we also take scene videos and we actually just recently, within the past a year or so, you certainly use new technology.
We have a thing called a like a scanner.
And basically, if you imagine, obviously the housing market’s pretty hot right now.
So if you’re online looking for a house and you can kind of do that 3-D, walk through it, just click on a spot and all of a sudden you’re through to the next room.
So we actually have one of those.
So we can actually do a walk through of the scene, which is really important for court.
Obviously, jurors, judges, all that stuff they love to see and be able to kind of put yourself in that scene.
So that kind of supplements our photos.
So it’s after, you know, a long homicide homicide scene we’ve collected exhibits, there’s fingerprinting, anything.
There’s doing a very, very thorough search and again, like I said, we’re talking about the blood spatter experts.
We have chemicals that can develop blood further, like look for fingerprints or footwear in blood.
So there is just a ton of a ton of processes we can use.
And especially for a homicide, we try to we basically exhaust our whole all of our resources to fully process that scene and make sure we don’t miss anything.
You mentioned court.
How what is it like to go into court and what’s that experience all about? Yeah, court.
It’s obviously that’s kind of the culmination and the end point for our investigation where the work we put in, the work the investigators put in and everyone else, this is basically to put our evidence forward and to just do it.
Obviously, it’s for the courts to decide the weight of the evidence.
So I don’t mind going to court.
I know some people are nervous or anything like that, but after a couple of years of doing the same job here and there, you start to get comfortable with that, that that process of, you know, checking in with the crown and kind of doing a potentially like a pretrial conference or anything like that and going up onto the witness stand and speaking to the evidence, getting cross-exam.
And I was definitely more nervous when I started because again, it’s a nice new thing.
You’re doing a new skill.
I always want to do a good job and, you know, put my best work forward.
So court I don’t I actually enjoy going because it’s it’s it’s a it’s a good experience and you know, it’s it’s the trier of fact is trying to the way the way the evidence and it’s it’s kind of like you see on TV sometimes a little less I guess, confrontational and controversial obviously because TV has to be a little more dramatic.
But yes, pretty close to that.
Do you have cases that keep you up at night from time to time.
Is in just like the the workload or the things that we have to process and see.
Yeah, I think I’ll turn it into actually because you see a lot of dramatic things.
Do you have a support network? Does the the police service offer ways for you to cope and help you through maybe some more traumatic things that you’ve you’ve seen? Definitely.
Actually, the EPS I don’t know if it’s a world renowned, but they’re definitely renowned, especially in Canada.
And I believe even probably within the United States, too.
They’ve looked at a lot of our programs specifically made for helping members who went through a traumatic experience and supporting them through their their experience.
We have a critical incident support members.
So basically you get trained and you reach out to members and been involved in a critical incident that can be anything from obviously seeing a very traumatic thing or having to perform life saving measures on a person.
So there’s amazing supports.
There’s our, our employee family assistance team are great with speaking to speaking to the members and getting them supports that they need.
There’s like psychologists and people like that we get to liaise with if required.
There’s we’re always told that that options there and also some members really take advantage of that resource.
And obviously looking after your mental health is as important as your physical health.
And I think we’ve all really learned that.
So there’s tons of supports.
And then obviously the first support that we all have, I’m sure, is family, too.
So I mean, you know, I’m lucky in the sense that my wife, being a police officer, I can kind of talk pretty candidly about some of the more graphic things I’ve seen, because she’s seen probably the same or close to the same.
But having a good support system is at home is just as important as what the EPS provides us, which when you use those two together it really helps with seeing some things for sure.
Do you guys actually see each other? Is this not a career where you’re shift work? Yeah.
You know what? We got really lucky.
We when we both came out of recruit class, we both went to the same shift pattern.
We were working in different parts of the city, but we worked the same hours and we had the same days off.
But that changed obviously, when I came to forensics because the schedule was just a little bit different.
But again, we got pretty lucky and I had requested the forensics unit, if possible, to kind of put me in a certain squad that would allow me to see her the most.
So obviously, they they do preach a good work life balance.
So they managed to accommodate me there.
So that was quite, quite good.
But you know, with all the training that we get to, one of the awesome things about forensics now is we used to have to go to Ottawa for two months to get trained.
We’re now doing that course here in Edmonton.
So having being, you know, being in Ottawa for two months is quite a long time to be away from, you know, your loved ones.
And we don’t have any kids, but it’s just it was especially hard on people with kids.
So having having a course here, at least I was able to see her.
But of course she’s a bomb tech, like I mentioned.
So she actually ended up going Ottawa for five weeks anyways.
So that was yeah, I spent a little bit of time away from each other kind of doing courses and everything like that, but we just tried to really work on the work life balance side of things and but shift work, it’s not, not ideal sometimes, but yeah, we make, we make the best of it.
Can your days be quite long? Yeah.
And forensics especially I found like you use a homicide, for example, once you start that investigation, if you’re the crime scenes team on that file, you’re on that file from start to finish.
So, you know, it’s not unusual to end up working 6 hours extra after your shift is over to try to finish the scene.
Or, you know, obviously, if there’s a search warrant, we have certain parameters we have to follow.
We can’t be searching or entering the house after the search warrant is expired.
And then again, we attend the autopsies for all suspicious deaths.
So we speak with the medical examiners and they’re the ones who set the autopsies.
So sometimes we’ll have to come in on a day off to either finish a scene or we’ll have to go in for the autopsy to basically we recapture photographs for them.
And obviously, there’s exhibits to seize from the deceased person as well.
So that’s that’s our function there.
But the days can be can be long, but it’s sporadic and you can’t really plan for it.
What are some of the obvious challenges for you in your career? In crime scenes? I’d say we’re a pretty busy unit.
There’s and we’re a small unit, too.
And that’s that’s kind of where the crux of burnout starts to kind of creep in a little bit is there’s a small, small unit and we service all of Edmonton.
And as we kind of touching on before if there’s any forensic evidence in a file like recovered stolen vehicle a break and enter a mischief which is just damage to property and then to homicides where we’re going, right.
There’s not a lot of us to be able to service all of Edmonton and Edmonton’s a growing city.
There’s obviously people are coming into the cities, especially when the economy is a little lower.
They’re kind of flock back to where all the resources are.
So when we kind of see an influx of people, there’s sometimes a little more more crime associated with more people to be more crime.
So just having to provide that same level of service with a small unit can be a little bit difficult.
And so the workload can be pretty high.
And then obviously for our for our unit, we try to provide the best service and detail detailed reports.
So we really try to do our best job possible for each file.
So that kind of just adds a little bit extra, a little bit extra stress just for your your workload.
But that’s I would say that’s the main challenge.
But if you love what you’re doing, like I do it, it makes it a lot more bearable.
And I’m going to ask you about what you specifically love about your position, but specific to some of these cases that you work on, what is the experience like when you’re speaking to a victim’s family? Yeah, you know, in crime scenes, we don’t deal with the families as much, at least for some, some crimes.
We definitely do.
So for for a break and enter, for example, we are obviously in that person’s home.
So they a lot of the times ask us what we’re doing.
What we can do, ask is the limitation of fingerprints, DNA, kind of what we’re looking for, trying to find why we’re taking certain items or, you know, seizing items from from their home, especially the touched by the suspect.
We always ask their permission first, because obviously it’s their property and we tell them why.
But, you know, obviously typically when you deal with the police and it’s rarely for a good reason that you’re calling the police or needing the police.
So trying to maintain that level of compassion and explain to people why you’re there.
And obviously, our main goal is to help people.
And, you know, obviously bring a level of closure and potentially find people responsible are committing crimes or victimizing people.
That’s kind of the main goal.
So I always tell people what I’m there for and why I’m doing what I’m doing.
But on more major case management style things like a homicide, we don’t deal with the family as much.
That’s typically the the investigators because we more or less just assist them in their investigations.
But I know from our homicide detectives, it’s just they have constant communications with the families and update them and try to provide as much information as they can, because obviously that’s probably the worst thing imaginable, is losing a losing a loved one like that.
So I know that they really work hard to try to provide that level of communication that they don’t feel left out and that we’re still constantly working on their file or where the files are too.
Okay, what characteristics make a great crime scene investigator, do you think? That’s a good question.
I’d probably say being detail oriented is definitely a good one.
Being able to notice small changes or details, fingerprints being the main example is it’s really tough if you can’t see a fingerprint or anything like that to be a crime scene investigator.
Because if you ask any one of us, probably what they’ll say is the fingerprints are our bread and butter, so to speak.
That’s where we kind of make most of our most of our headway through the investigations.
But honestly, it’s it’s it’s something everyone can have to it’s the motivation to work hard, to want to learn and to just want to continually just improve on yourself where there’s I kind of touched on that with the blood just improve on yourself where there’s I kind of touched on that with the blood stain analysts there’s so many different things you can look into when you’re in forensics, which is the part I love about it, is it’s so multifaceted.
There’s the blood stain side.
There’s a post-blast, which is basically after improvised explosive device or an incendiary explosive device like an IED goes off, basically reconstructing the device, knowing what to look for.
For the forensic side, there’s arson training or like fire death stuff.
There’s the CVR, any so like the chemical, biological weapons, things like that.
There’s just so many little things that you can go and start to, you know, dabble in a little bit.
And that’s why a lot of is it just you learn all the time.
And if you just want to continue evolving and learning and growing, you’re growing your skills.
This is the place to be for sure.
What are some misconceptions about crime scene investigators? I think the main ones typically come from your CSI shows or your your movies that have that crime scene element.
So a couple of obvious ones are watching.
The old CSI TV shows like CSI Miami is one that comes to mind for me immediately is being a crime scene investigator.
I do a lot of the lab work and the forensic stuff.
Unfortunately, I’m not as cool as like Horatio with my sunglasses and my suit.
I’m just in the uniform, you see now.
And the instrument, I just pass on the information to the investigator and they get to do all the cool stuff, like go try to arrest the suspect potentially, or use our tactical team.
Unfortunately, they try to, I think in the crime scene CSI show rather they meld the investigator tactical and crime scenes into one position where they’re just super cool chasing down the bad guy after they already get the DNA hit.
So that’s one.
And then actually a really common one, too, is I believe it’s the The Dark Knight, the Batman movie or the Batman is in his lab and he’s shooting like a big machine gun type thing at a brick wall.
And he manages to use a computer software to put the bullet back together, and then there’s a magical, perfect fingerprint on it.
I wish that we could do that.
That is super cool.
But that’s that’s not something within the realm of possibility for us.
Maybe, maybe, maybe if they tell us how to do it, maybe we can figure it out.
But that one’s a little bit.
A little bit added a movie effects will say but those well those are the typical ones thinking that we could get a fingerprint off and anything no matter what it’s gone through.
So yeah and and the fact that they solve these cases usually in 60 minutes.
That’s going to see two is I would love if I could get DNA results within the last half hour of my episode TV show.
But typically, you know, the lab, RCMP lab, the forensic scientists you talk about, we have a lab here at Edmonton, but I believe there’s only three others for the RCMP.
And Quebec has their own and Ontario has their own, but the rest of Canada basically has three labs to use.
So you can imagine all the crime and all the forensic evidence is going to the lab.
Takes a little while for them to sort through all the all the evidence and get the results back to us.
Yeah, I think just as you were speaking to that, I was thinking about some of the more darker crime shows or movies like the Movie seven.
Can you talk about any experiences you’ve you’ve had while on an actual crime crime scene? In an actual crime scene.
I’ve seen seven.
That’s a pretty good movie for sure.
Obviously deals with quite a few homicides.
They’re working on a on a homicide scene.
It’s pretty obviously it’s very interesting and you’re very focused.
So sometimes still you kind of get in that moment when you’re working around a person who’s deceased, it’s not normal.
It’s, you know, one, it’s not a normal thing to see somebody so still and obviously deceased as a couple of times like, you know, kind of the darker moments where you’re working around a deceased person and as the the the rest of the team isn’t around, you know, you kind of check over your shoulder every once in a while because in your brain you’re thinking like they have to move at some point, right? Yeah.
So it’s that’s kind of one of the the darker moments that kind of like, you know, it’s not it’s so outside of the realm of what’s normal that you still sometimes catch yourself like thinking that that person might move even though you know that they’re deceased.
So yeah, that’s definitely, definitely one thing that I’ve experienced before, that kind of eerie sensation.
But it starts to dissipate a little bit the more experience you get, obviously, and even in patrol, you get that the first in the first sudden death that you go to, because typically police go to more or less every death unless the person is staying in an assisted living home and the police just go there just to make sure there’s absolutely no chance of suspicious, suspicious, foul play, anything like that.
So you get you start to get that a little bit early in your career and then obviously just deal with that, a little more in the crime scenes.
Yeah, I and I know I mentioned I didn’t have a lot more questions for you, but has there been lighter moments for you that that stand out? Oh, yeah.
There’s the main thing and the reason why I love working with my squad and you know, sometimes the worst work, it’s better made bearable by the people you’re working with.
So I have a great, great squad.
We have a lot of laughs together, things like that.
We try to spend some time together on days off, but it was lighter moments, like sometimes a funny one I can think of.
It’s again, we were we were at a homicide scene, but we were outside searching a a backyard and we were looking through the the garbage is in the wintertime.
And this was there’s tons of snow.
I can’t remember what year it was, but we had just tons and tons of snow.
And we were moving the new wheel garbage cans that we have here in Evanston.
We’re wheeling those into our containment area to search.
The next day is at night and my one squad mate, she’s wheeling the car backwards and she slipped and fell on her butt.
And obviously that was the funny part.
But then the cart fell on top of her and the lid very slowly opened and all the snow that was sitting on that thing hit her right in the face.
So I mean even even its some pretty not so great scenes.
You can have a couple of moments of where you have a loss and something like that where you know, it’s kind of like that simple humor will say yes, basically getting it was in slow motion too.
I almost reached and grabbed the lid before it hit her, but the lid kind of came back and she was covered in snow from head to toe.
So sometimes things like that makes it makes work a little more bearable and you get to have a good laugh.
And yeah, I still laugh about it now when it was probably close to at least it was this winter, it was at least six months ago.
And if it was more than that something we still talk about it so.
Well at least her gun didn’t go off when she fell to you.
So I think the funny part too, as she was the photograph officer, so she was protecting the camera.
The most important part.
So protecting the camera.
So she couldn’t get a hand up in time to get that stop the lid from basically giving her a smack.
So yeah, it was pretty, pretty good.
Are there any surprises that you’ve experienced through through your career as a crime scene investigator? I think the main thing I was surprised at is how long took to feel fully confident and confident in your abilities.
Just because there’s so you’re walking into even to a you think it’s a simple break and enter.
There’s just so many different things to look at and consider and some of the different chemical processes you can use to develop fingerprints or, you know, different ways and innovative ways of thinking about how to try to locate forensic evidence.
It’s it’s always when you have a partner beside you and you bounce ideas off one another and know, okay, that’s good.
But when you’re by yourself, which a lot of our job, if you’re kind of going to a break and enter, you know, a stolen vehicle, you’re typically operating by yourself.
So you have that moment of is there anything else I should be doing or is there anything else I missing here? And so obviously once you get confident and confidence, your skills become more efficient and you just it’s like breathing.
You just know what you’re doing.
But it’s like, like any job or any skill, there’s like that moment is, oh, man, am I, am I getting everything here? And obviously we don’t have a second shot at this, so we have to do it right the first time.
So you take a little longer and it’s a little slower to start.
But that was one of my things.
I was like, man, I, you know, I was a police officer for five years and I feel like I’m going back to the very beginning again, even though I’ve been to, you know, tons and tons of break and enters pretty much the same forensically, but, you know, you don’t got another shot, so you have to really be on your game.
I’m going to ask you a two part question and it’s the advice question.
So first first off, we’re at advice to somebody.
Why would you or what kind of advice could you give to somebody thinking about becoming a police officer? And then after you answer that, if you could talk about advice to somebody going through the training of being a police officer and then deciding to go into crime scene investigation.
For the police officer.
But there’s obviously I’m way I’m a big proponent to, you know, do your homework and research it a little bit.
There’s so many different options for info sessions, obviously, that the EPS holds to kind of talk about what it’s like to be a police officer.
There’s run with the recruiters that they do, which obviously the recruiting team, they’re actually they’re kind of doing some physical activity, seeing kind of what the recruits are doing and similar type of activities.
A lot of team building things, knowing that obviously policing is, you know, it’s very team oriented, not very individual based.
And just, you know, it’s like anything working 100, like giving 100% effort all the time and being really motivated.
And for me, it’s always asking questions.
You know, I love I love to learn.
And the more you kind of learn and ask questions, you start to have a better idea of kind of what you’re getting yourself into.
And now it’s nice know, knock on wood COVID it’s, you know, some of the restrictions are easing.
So we’re back to doing ride alongs and things like that.
So that’s probably the best way you can figure out just like, Hey, is this for me or not? Is go on a ride along or two.
And depending on how serious you are, there’s, there’s police studies courses out there as well.
Grant McEwen has some, so you can obviously get a lot of information from them and there’s actually police officers who lecture there and you can get a lot of great info.
So that’s probably just the policing bit.
And then it’s kind of similar for the crime scene side.
But the more if you kind of get into policing and you have some experiences with crime scenes team and you think, oh, this is something you might want to do this ride along with, you can come on with us specifically.
There’s, you know, doing consults with us.
Like typically if you call our sergeant who’s always got the phone on him.
Basically anyone can call and just ask some questions and figure out if there’s forensic evidence available.
There’s lots of, you know, trying to get deep in the nitty gritty and investigations as well, like making sure that you explore every avenue and see what what forensic evidence could be available or what what options are available for you in your investigations.
Basically being really detail oriented and trying to really flush out everything in a file will really make you notice them.
Will A lot of times we’ll actually seek you out if you want to if you want to be in forensics, because we if we see a work ethic like that, then that’s that’s most of the most of the battle right there.
If you if you have a good work ethic, you’re you’re most of the way to being a crime scene investigator.
Well, you have a fascinating career, and I kind of wish I can go back in time.
I’m 46 now, so I don’t think I’m going to be on the list of your recruitment.
But Stephen, thank you so much for joining us today.
I really appreciate the time you gave to us.
Thanks for having me.
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