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About Gizmos & Gadgets

One thing I have learned over the years in crime scene investigation is that we all end up with the same results but it is how we get there that is the most interesting. Different parts of the country get there using different methods and techniques. What I have tried to come up with in this manual is items that are useful, cost effective and make the job of crime scene investigation easier. Not all departments have the luxury of having a crime scene unit, evidence officers or detectives. In these cases, the patrolman is the one who handles the case from start to finish. This manual gives smaller departments with smaller budgets as well as some larger departments that can not allocate enough funds to their crime scene department the opportunity to work a crime scene effectively without breaking the bank. What I have been doing for the past 10-12 years is showing various ways to process and collect evidence at the crime scene. While doing a class for officers in northeast Kansas, the county attorney who was sponsoring the class sent out fliers billing the class as a "Gizmos & Gadgets" class for crime scene investigation and evidence collection. In this flier, the county attorney billed me as the "McGyver" of evidence collection. Thus came the name "Gizmos & Gadgets" for the classes I have been doing as well as the name of this manual.

There are times when working a crime scene when you have the need for something as a simple way to measure the angle of the side of a ditch but nothing is available. The item you are looking for may not be in the crime scene supply catalog but at your local hardware, electronic, automotive or toy store. Look around for an item that will work and, in some cases, you may even have to make the item yourself. Lets face it, plastic bags, paper sacks, 100" tapes, dental stone and traffic cones were not originally designed for use in crime scene and evidence collection. In some cases, it is not just a piece of equipment but a technique using that equipment that is different. You can take a piece of equipment that has one application and apply it to another totally different application that will fit your needs.

An example of this was a class I attended on the Electrostatic Dust Print Lifter which sold for $750 at that time. Our department had issued officers stun guns. What I did was apply this principle of using an electrostatic charge to solar film to lift shoe prints. I used the stun gun to charge the solar film to create static electricity that lifted the dust print. It was easy enough but I found out while trying to lift a dust print from a metal file cabinet, safety precautions need to be followed. If you touch a metal file cabinet while zapping it, you will get shocked. That is how I broke my first stun gun. My goal was to have a portable cost effective unit to carry with you and one that most departments could afford. If you have the equipment with you, you will use it. If you have to go back to the office to get a special piece of equipment, in most cases, you do without. It is important to be able to carry the proper equipment to process a crime scene with you instead of making due with what you have on hand.

In some cases, a piece of equipment is neither portable nor cost efficient. Therefore, you will need to develop or modify the equipment to suit your needs. For instance, there are various types and sizes of alternate light sources but back in 1994 the market was a lot smaller. Because of this, they ranged in price from about $5,000 to $16,000. I developed a portable alternate light source called the Blue Light Special. It mounts on a rechargeable Mag-Light or Streamlight flashlight. Though not as powerful as the larger units on the market, it has its place for crime scene and rape investigation.

Not all the ideas in this Gizmos & Gadgets manual are mine. Over the years, I have received ideas from across the U.S. that are from fellow officers, patrolmen, crime scene and evidence officers. These helpful hints and tricks of the trade have helped me out over the years and now that I am retired, I want to pass these on to the younger officers that are coming up.

-Richard Warrington




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