Sheriff's Forensic Science Unit Real Life CSI

This week at Pinellas County Sheriff's Citizens Academy we visited the Forensics Science unit and it felt like sort of like walking onto the set a TV crime show.

As a fan of TV crime shows like "NCIS," "CSI," and "Bones," I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived for my Sheriff's Citizens Academy class at the Sheriff's Forensic Science building.

After all, sometimes TV shows have a tendency of putting a glamorous Hollywood spin on real life scenarios — like, c'mon, in real life (ambiguous) they can't really find out our identity by running our photo through a database, right? That's all Hollywood. 

Boy, was I wrong.

Apparently, in real life they can run facial recognition from their patrol car and have an ID match within minutes.

And the characters are real, too! Meeting members of the Forensics Science team felt like a meet-and-greet with CBS's "NCIS" characters (where are my Jethro Gibbs fans?!).

We got to tour the mobile crime lab, we dusted for our own fingerprints, visited the scene of a car crash as preserved by a 3-D laser scanner, and then went to Abby Sciuto — er, Anna Cox's crime lab, where she wowed us with her chemistry prowess while entertaining us by enthusiastically revealing blood stains and fingerprints that would otherwise be missed by the naked eye. 

She had a piece of flooring with bloody fingerprints on it. We could see a few of them, but then Anna, who is just as energetic and quirky as Abby on TV (she called blood splatter trajectory her passion), poured a black chemical that looked like invisible ink (I cannot recall its actual name) over the flooring. We watched in amazement as several more bloody fingerprints and smudges appeared.

One of my classmates chimed in with a question.

"Do you clean it up afterward?"

No, she replied. "If you have a homicide at your house, you're just gonna have to get new floors and carpets. I don't know what to tell ya."

On the Docket: Crimes Against Persons, Crimes Against Children. 

I am writing a weekly series about my experience in the 33rd class of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's Citizens Academy. The three-month program offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. It is open to eligible, adult members of the community and is free of charge. (More criteria here.) While most of Clearwater is under patrol by Clearwater Police, unincorporated areas are overseen by the sheriff's department.


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