Scene of crime officer: job description

Scene of crime officer: job description

Scene of crime officers are responsible for collecting, processing and preserving forensic, photographic and fingerprint evidence from crime scenes, post mortem and accidents.
Some of the largest UK police forces employ in excess of 70 scene of crime officers each.

What does a scene of crime officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

A scene of crime officer works alongside police officers to help solve crimes. Their role is to locate, collect, preserve and catalogue evidence from a crime scene. They are also known as crime scene investigators (CSIs). A scene of crime officer will work on a wide variety of crime scenes, from burglaries and vandalism to murders and sexual offences.

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • responding to and prioritising calls from police officers
  • taking charge of crime scenes
  • establishing what evidence is required from incident scenes and how best to obtain it
  • taking, developing and printing photographs of the scene
  • gathering forensic evidence such as samples of blood, hair, footprints, tyre marks etc, using appropriate scientific techniques
  • obtaining impressions of fingerprints from prisoners, dead bodies or from people who may have accessed the crime scene
  • placing evidence into protective packaging and sending it away for forensic analysis
  • preserving crime scenes against contamination
  • compiling written reports
  • giving and defending evidence in court

Applicants should be capable of concentrating on the task in hand despite the difficult circumstances that a crime scene may present.

Typical employers of scene of crime officers

Scene of crime officers (SOCO) are employed by individual police forces throughout the UK. Although a few are police officers, most are civilians. They are based in police force headquarters or divisional stations but spend most of their time attending investigations.

Opportunities are advertised online, in newspapers, local authority job lists, and in professional journals such as New Scientist as well as their online equivalents. Gaining relevant work experience via placements, work shadowing or networking is advisable. Further information about the job and entry requirements can be obtained from local police force headquarters.

Qualifications and training required

It’s possible to become a crime scene officer both with or without a degree. However, while it’s not necessary to have a degree, it might be beneficial to have one in a science subject or in forensics. Good photographic ability is important and a qualification in photography can prove advantageous.

Entrance requirements vary between individual forces – but most expect candidates to possess good GCSEs or A levels, at least. Many employers will also ask that you have relevant work experience in policing or a related sector. Accurate colour vision and physical fitness are essential. A driving licence, as you will be visiting crime scenes.

To find out more about you can get into policing via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver route) see the public sector section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers, particularly the feature on jobs and employers in the police.

Key skills for scene of crime officers

  • Able to cope well with pressure
  • Able to deal with witnessing upsetting scenes
  • Patience
  • A logical and enquiring mind
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Good teamworking and problem solving abilities
  • Good people skills
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