Taking a closer look at real-life CSI

PETALING JAYA: The TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation made these sciences look “cool” and even simple, but a behind-the-scenes look with Bukit Aman showed that forensic investigation is quite a different ballgame.

For starters, each case requires its own time frame, which means that it cannot be resolved at just one go, said Asst Comm Zuraimi Zam Zam, who heads Bukit Aman’s forensic lab.

Furthermore, there are only about 360 forensic personnel working throughout the country, he said.

“For every state, we have an average of 15 personnel to handle forensic requirements. As such, we cannot cater to many cases.

“We hope more people will be interested in joining this field and becoming experts to help solve cases,” he told The Star.

The forensic discipline would include experts such as pathologists, medical officers and coroners.

ACP Zuraimi also spoke on some obstacles faced such as the need to optimise laboratory services at the national and regional levels to avoid “inter-agency competition” and costly duplication of expensive equipment.

There is a need to bridge resources, identify capabilities and avoid wastage of technical skills to address these barriers, he added.

At present, he said Bukit Aman’s Forensic DNA Databank Malaysia requires RM11mil annually to operate at the optimum level.

“This is based on its maximum capacity as we can run only 52,000 to 72,000 tests. It cannot take more than that,” he said, adding that more funds were required.

He spoke of the need to also depend on technology to solve many cold cases.

“Previously, we did not have anything to compare with but now, we collect samples from fingerprints, ballistics and DNA which help us find a match in the system.

“When it comes to forensics, if specimens are collected properly, they cannot be disputed, unlike witness’ statements.”

However, he acknowledged that “technicalities” in any case can always be tricky.

“This is why if you ask the forensic lab about our turnover rate for cases in court, it is very difficult to say.

“There has to be an understanding of the forensic evidence, otherwise it can cause a grave miscarriage of justice,” he said.

ACP Zuraimi said Bukit Aman had widely used an integrated system in dealing with crime, adding that this included information technology such as data mining and social network analysis.

The integrated system features a Facial Mugshot Entity, a Criminal Central Intelligence Unit, a Biometric Fingerprint Identity System and the Forensic DNA Databank Malaysia.

He said the Chemistry Department was also helping out by providing scientific analysis, investigation, and consultancy.

ACP Zuraimi noted that the police force is moving towards other avenues such forensic behavioural ccience and forensic linguistics to be included in the mix.

“Currently, the interrogation unit will use behavioural science during interviews and interrogations.

“When they are carrying out an interrogation, there are tell-tale signs the officers would note down, which are used to assess a person’s behaviour.

“The officers have the knowledge to properly assess the victims or suspects. But we have not used forensic behavioural science for trials here.

“I believe we have not reached that stage yet as we need more legal avenues and experts for it,” he said.

As for forensic linguistics, ACP Zuraimi said the lab has officers who would trace documents to check for handwriting and signatures apart from audio and video analysis in certain cases.

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