Forensic Science Vs. Forensic Media
Forensic TV shows are known for solving mysteries, cracking codes, and dodging bullets, all while enticing the audience with romance and drama. No matter the mystery, it is solved with ease, leaving time for dramatic twists and intense music.
Shows such as NCIS or CSI are far from the real deal for a number of reasons. For example, the over exaggerated scenes and “made-up” investigation techniques aren’t exactly how things go down. According to Jenifer Smith, director of Washington D.C.’s Department of Forensic Sciences, “Everything’s a lot faster on the shows. And everything’s a lot more perfect.” For instance, detectives cannot just throw a photo onto a screen and instantly get a name, address, and life story. In reality, the red tape around these programs requires a lot more time.
Another major difference are the technical aspects. The programs used in TV shows are much simpler and can pin the crime on someone in seconds. “They(television characters) do blood work or some fingerprinting and the suspect’s face pops up in a matter of seconds, showing who it matched to. However, there aren’t computer systems out there to do that.” Sarah Owen, a forensic scientist and contributing writer to the Chicago Tribune explains. Taking into consideration the long hours forensic scientists work or even the amount of days spent waiting for results to come in from the lab, the job isn’t really as easy as the shows make it seem.
“They(television characters) do blood work or some fingerprinting and the suspect’s face pops up in a matter of seconds, showing who it matched to. However, there aren’t computer systems out there to do that.”
“Another CSI myth is that the person who conducts the lab work also interrogates suspects, makes arrests, and does police work,” states Sorenson Forensics Executive, Director Tim Kupferschmid. In TV shows, the roles tend to be “thrown around.” In real-life forensics, you mostly stick to one role. Of course, when you are solving a crime, the entire team will work to lay out their data to determine aspects such as possible suspects and time of death.
Whether it be long wait times, changing roles, or extensive amounts of drama, crime TV shows, while being based on a true profession, hardly accurately reflect the reality of a forensic detective or scientist. While they may be different, though, both crime TV and the real deal are appealing to separate audiences around the world.