21st February 2024
Pictured: Thames Valley Police CSI, Sarah Bradley (image credit: BBC)
FCN's Paula Mulroy has appeared on BBC radio today discussing careers in CSI and other forensic roles.
This follows a BBC online article featuring a Thames Valley Police CSI, Sarah Bradley, and forensic trainer Doron Jensen.
Interestingly, many forensic roles are female dominated, with 60% of CSIs and 64% of fingerprint staff being women according to FCN’s analysis of police workforce data. Only digital forensic roles are male dominated, with 69% of staff being men.
Before joining FCN as Workforce Lead, Paula was the College of Policing’s Head of Crime Scene Training. She worked in crime scene units across two police forces and has a degree in biochemistry.
Paula spoke live on BBC radio with presenter Kirsten O’Brien, and they began by talking about what sort of characteristics a person needs to be a CSI. Paula said:
“These are individuals who want to serve the public and who understand what they’re going to get exposed to. You need the ability to concentrate and have great attention to detail, be curious and have great analytical thinking—that’s the investigative mindset. And most importantly of all, you need to have honesty, integrity and courage.
“It isn’t all like what you see on the TV, sometimes it’s gruelling hours in a white suit doing long, extensive examinations.”
Paula explained that many graduates do take on forensic jobs after studying science-based courses at university, but in most police forces having a degree isn’t a requirement and the recruitment is very open.
They also discussed the popularity of forensic science in TV dramas, and whether this positively raises awareness and interest in forensics as a career, or if it glamorises the job.
“There have been real benefits to have having that increased awareness of the sciences,” Paula said, “and CSI is just one role so there are a range of different roles that I’d encourage people to explore. The other positive is there are a lot of real-life documentaries that police forces have been involved in, and that gives a much more realistic view of what’s involved in the role.”
When it comes to the gender split in CSI roles, Paula explained there’s no clear reason why women overrepresent men, but suggested:
“We do often recruit from universities and there’s a high percentage of females who do these feeder courses, and it’s also down to that increased awareness and seeing those female role models. And often, in my experience when I’ve been recruiting, women have done that research and are often better prepared for the interviews.”
Wellbeing is an increasingly important topic in forensic roles, where CSIs can face distressing scenes on a daily basis and digital forensic staff see large amounts of harrowing images as part of their day-job. But Paula said that support is available:
“Police forces are so much better at supporting staff now than when I started in this profession. There is a really big push on wellbeing support in general, and we’ve done a lot of work in the Forensic Capability Network to support forces, prepare their staff better for dealing with distressing scenes, making sure they understand what they’re going to see and how to deal with it.
“We do a lot of work on resilience building, how to make people healthy, help them sleep well, and there are debriefing processes. And we also monitor people in high-risk roles like CSIs and digital forensics, through occupational health there are psychological screenings to ensure we maintain a healthy workforce.”
Listen back here on BBC Sounds from 2:10:00 onwards to hear the feature (expires on 11 October).