Corporal Theresa Oelke shows some of what is behind the work of forensics specialists in the RCMP.

C.S.I. northern style

A peak into the real forensic identification workers in northern B.C..

She doesn’t wear high heels to crime scenes and they can’t get fingerprints off of kidneys.

But Corporal Theresa Oelke does have a pretty cool job as a forensic identification specialist, even if it doesn’t live up to the Hollywood idea created by C.S.I..

“It’s not as fast and it’s not as glamourous,” said Oelke.

Oelke is one of a department of forensic identification workers stationed in Prince George who cover the North District.

They can be called out across the district to crime scenes or to process evidence taken in relation to a crime.

The work may be slower, but it does involve dusting special powders on with special brushes.

It is also not always that slow. If necessary, prints can be prioritized and luckily they are processed in B.C., while other provinces have to send their prints to Ottawa.

Identification of matches takes a lot of work, and is also not like C.S.I..

First, if there is no suspect in the case, the print is processed and analyzed to see if it can be used to identify one source and controls for homeowners and others are eliminated before sending the print away.

The print is photographed, enhanced and sent to the B.C. Integrated Forensic Identification Service (I.F.I.S.) in the Lower Mainland where they search for a match using a computer database of prints on file.

The match is confirmed by another forensic specialist before being sent back.

The forensic identification specialist or technician then again checks the print match which is again confirmed by another forensics specialist. So the print goes through four people to ensure a good match.

Good prints are harder to come by than on t.v., but even if no match is found, they can be kept in relation to a crime for a number of years after they are captured, depending on the crime.

Oelke was processing a number of items while in Fort St. James, some from a recent case involving thefts from vehicles outside the New Caledonia Motel, in which some items were recovered after the execution of a search warrant.

It is a three-year training program for the job, one year of which is spent as an apprentice. After approval by a board you can become cleared to give an opinion as evidence in court and then two more years and further training can lead to becoming a full specialist.

While some regular duty officers for the RCMP have the training to process some evidence from a scene and turn it over to the forensic team, the forensics training takes the evidence to the next level and can testify in court as experts on what they have collected.


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