CSI Sioux City: Identification technicians witness the worst moments in people’s lives | Local News
SIOUX CITY — Several years ago, Carissa Roach was called in to handle the scene of a bank robbery in downtown Sioux City.
Unfortunately, the bank had an outdated CCTV system, which only gave a single still image of the suspect.
“The description of the individual was really weird – had glasses, a wig, so we really didn’t have good physical descriptors,” recalls Roach, who got her started working as an identification technician for the Sioux City Police Department. 16 years ago.
Roach processed a pamphlet, which the suspect had picked up and dropped off at the bank, for fingerprints. She entered the fingerprints into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, and found a match, which was eventually verified by her supervisor.
“It was pretty exciting,” she said. “They had him picked up the next morning.”
Roach now oversees the police department’s Identification Unit, which currently has three senior identification technicians and an asset clerk. They handle thousands of calls a year.
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Identification technicians process crime scenes 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They take photographs, recover and analyze latent fingerprints, collect DNA, use a FARO 3D laser scanner to digitally map crime scenes. crime and traffic accidents, collect and analyze marijuana, and document and store criminal and video evidence.
Last month, at a budget wrap-up meeting, the Sioux City Council voted to add a full-time identification technician in fiscal year 2023, bringing the unit to six. The titles of Identification Technicians are also changing to those of Crime Scene Investigators.
“Right now, having good forensic evidence is huge in court,” Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller told the council. “All of our county prosecutors are focused on that. Our federal prosecutors are focused on that. Nothing beats having that forensic evidence to support what investigators are doing, what detectives are doing. We place a high value on that. “
Roach said her interest in photography and her “dislike for blood and guts” led her to this line of work.
She received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Morningside College and pursued Masters of Forensic Science studies at Nebraska Wesleyan University. About a year after earning her master’s degree, the Sioux City native learned of an opening in the police department, and the rest is history.
Roach said the demand for identification technicians or crime scene investigators is “pretty limited.” Usually, only large police departments have civilian positions dedicated to forensics. She said Sioux City had civilians working in the unit since 1980. Prior to that, she said it consisted of officers.
“A lot of smaller departments have officers assigned to do these tasks, or, even if something major happens, they call the state to process their crime scenes,” she explained.
Sheila Rogeness began her career as an Identification Technician with the Department in 1994. After 13 years, she accepted a job with the Davenport Crime Scene Unit. She returned to Sioux City two and a half years ago.
“My background was actually in photography and graphic design,” she said. “In 1994, there was no master’s degree or degree in forensic medicine.”
Rogeness first applied for a job in the unit in 1980 but, at that time, she said women weren’t really welcome. When the position reopened in 1993, Rogeness applied and was hired.
“I’ve since gotten my associates (degree) in science, and of course the training I’ve had over the years is from the FBI,” she said. “There are plenty of online options for training now so you can stay up to date.”
When she arrives at the scene of an accident or crime, Rogeness speaks with officers to get a sense of what they think transpired. She said they showed her around the scene and told her where they thought she might find evidence. Depending on the type of incident, Rogeness can monitor tool marks, shoe prints, as well as items from which she might obtain fingerprints or DNA.
“I’m going to start by taking some set photos and walking around the stage,” she said. “I will look for any evidence that might be relevant to what we are looking at. If it is a burglary, for example, I will focus on the point of entry or anything else they may have disturbed there. interior of a residence or business.”
The unit sends DNA evidence to the state crime lab in Ankeny for testing. The technology is so precise, according to Roach, that lab reports have shown that fewer than one in 100 octillion individuals should have that particular DNA profile.
“It’s just amazing the stats on this now,” she said. “It used to be standard blood, semen, saliva for DNA. Now we have what they call touch DNA. They are able to get full profiles from such small amounts of cells you can collect.”
Although Roach and Rogeness find their work interesting, rewarding, and even exciting at times, it is also difficult and strenuous. For example, Rogeness has spent countless hours hand-sanding firearms in hopes of restoring serial numbers that have been obliterated by criminals.
Roach and Rogeness say popular crime scene investigation shows don’t accurately portray their work.
“It’s not as glamorous. We don’t have a Hummer,” Rogeness said with a laugh. “We don’t arrest people.”
Identification technicians do not carry weapons and do not interview victims and suspects. They are the ones who collect clothes and rub their hands during interviews. They constantly see injuries and deaths.
“We see the worst times in people’s lives and we do that on a daily basis,” Roach said.
Identification technicians work various shifts and may be called in the middle of the night to deal with a scene in sub-zero temperatures. They descend into ditches and climb onto roofs in the sweltering heat, while dragging heavy camera bags.
“One time I had to climb a ladder on the roof of Lowe’s with my camera bag, because someone got up there and stole some gear,” Roach said. “I would say no one would watch a show on Sioux City CSI because it’s not as exciting most of the time.”