The CSI Effect
By Rick Workman
My first exposure to the concept of the CSI television series was as a senior crime scene investigator (CSI) for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police department (LVMPd), where I was assigned to the graveyard shift.
I was in a shift briefing in late 1999 when a supervisor told us that Anthony Zuiker was going to ride with us to crime scenes for six weeks, doing research for a show about CSIs and forensics.
We’d had camera crews and reporters travel with us in the past, but they were normally from the local TV news or newspapers. Occasionally a regional or national television crew would show up to film the aftermath of a major crime scene, like tupac Shakur’s murder in Las Vegas in 1996, or when a camouflage-clad Zane Floyd, armed with a shotgun, hunted people in a Las Vegas supermarket, killing four employees and wounding a fifth in 1999. But the news crews were interested in body counts, victims, and suspect information, not forensic processes.
Until Zuiker, no one had paid much attention to the virtually unknown world of forensics. But we wondered out loud if anyone would watch a television show where its stars spend hours brushing powder onto a piece of evidence to develop a fingerprint, or adding drops of phenolphthalein onto red-stained cotton swabs to determine if the red substance is blood. How do you capture the emotions on the face of a fingerprint examiner as he waits fifteen minutes or more, even hours, while a computer silently …