Brizo separates fact from fiction in crime scene investigation
Fictional television shows like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” have been popular for decades because solving crimes using forensic science is just plain interesting. But, according to Hot Springs Police Department Crime Scene Investigator Jennifer Brizo, those entertaining TV shows are just that: fictional.
Brizo said television shows have tricked people into thinking that the “CSI effect” is reality.
“I’ve watched (CSI) but it’s nothing that I’m going to watch on a daily basis. The reason that I don’t like watching it is because, here, we just have one crime lab in Arkansas, so it takes us longer to get results back and when we go out to a crime scene, people think everything has that CSI effect, that it should only take a couple of hours,” she said. “And CSI also focuses more on the detectives, the case itself, but there are other people in between those, like the crime scene technicians. We don’t ever show up on there.”
Brizo has worked at the police department as a CSI for three years. As she was finishing up her last year of college for a criminal justice degree, the position came open and she said she thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see what type of job she wanted in the future. Through the department, she completed a six-month program at the Criminal Justice Institute in Little Rock to become a certified crime scene technician.
Having three years behind her and being on call 24/7, Brizo has seen a lot of advancements in forensic DNA analysis.
“Evidence is real sensitive now,” she said. “There is a lot you can do in evidence and there’s a lot that’s out there that a long time ago wasn’t there.”
She said one of her favorite aspects of the job is that no crime scene is the same.
“If I worked two burglaries in a day, one is going to be totally different from the other one. I learn from it every time, so I know that if I’m going to a burglary that I will learn something that will help me in another case. And the people here at the PD are real helpful and real patient with you,” she said.
As far as being on call 24/7, Brizo said that sometimes it takes away from her time with her family but that she takes pride in what she does and is thankful to have a supportive family that understands her job and knows that she enjoys it.
Brizo recalled a time just weeks after she began working as a CSI when she saw her first dead body.
“I won’t give specific details but before working here I’d never seen a dead body in my life. Never. Just a couple weeks from the time that I started, I saw one of the most gruesome ones that they’ve had here at HSPD, so that was really my time to decide whether I was going to stay or not, and I made it through so I decided to stay,” she said.
The number of crime scenes she is called to on a weekly basis varies, she said. One week she will have no calls and can catch up on reports, and the next week she will work 24 hours per day. She said she never knows how long it will take to investigate a crime scene. “We don’t have a time frame; it could take anywhere from an hour, it could take eight hours — we’re there until we get everything.
“There are days where it’s slow to where I think I’m going to start catching up on reports and evidence. That helps me, to catch up.”
Brizo said she works closely with officers and detectives and is always accompanied by an officer to a crime scene.
“Officers are on scene, so if it’s a burglary, sometimes the detectives will be busy in- terviewing, so I’m in charge of the crime scene and I’ll go to the crime scene and the officer will be there with me. Then, if it’s a major case, usually a detective is there, but if they can’t be there then they can count on me to go to a crime scene and finish it up,” she added.
The tools and items she uses to investigate a scene include her camera, envelopes, boxes, bags, dust powders, magnetic powders, tape and lifting paper. Once she has collected all of the evidence from a scene, she returns to the crime lab at the police department to process the evidence.
When asked where she sees herself in five years, Brizo said, “I really enjoy being here and I see myself with a long career here, many years. I do want to continue my education and get my master’s degree. I’m actually going to start the Advanced Crime Scene Technician Program in September,” she said. “I want to do something with the FBI. I’m bi- lingual, so I’ve always wanted to do something linguistic with the FBI. I think having this experience would definitely help me get something with them in the future.”