Guest Blogger: Lisa Black, Author and CSI

10 Oct

Please welcome my first official guest blogger, author and CSI Lisa Black!

Lisa is a full time latent print examiner and CSI for a police department in Florida. Lisa dishes on the reality behind her job. Is it really as glamorous and exciting as it looks on television?

Look for Lisa Black’s fourth book, Defensive Wounds, which was released by Harper Collins on September 27. Forensic scientist Theresa MacLean battles a serial killer operating at an attorney’s convention. 

                                                                                                                                                                

I work as a CSI. Actually I’m a latent print examiner and CSI, which in a low-crime area like mine means I spend about 95% of my time sitting in front of a computer looking at fingerprints (which is exactly as exciting and glamorous as it sounds) and 5% of my time dealing with evidence or crime scenes. But that 5% can be pretty unusual.

I can say there’s nothing like the smell of dried blood at four in the morning—not from the scene, but from the suspect. He was covered in it.

I once had my evidence stolen right from under my nose. On the middle of the night (again!) I went to process a break-in at a local sports bar where the burglar had ignored the cash register to stand on the bar and try to take the flat-screen mounted high on the wall. They always expect those things to just pop off like a picture frame. Anyway, the officers had also found a still half-frozen filet of fish behind the building and wondered if perhaps the guy had decided to pick up something for dinner after striking out with the TV. I went out to photograph it but a local cat had already decided that this particular piece of evidence wasn’t relevant to our investigation.

I called out in protest, and the look that cat gave me left me with nightmares. Apparently the only reason I’m still alive is because he didn’t feel like licking the blood off his fur. Again.

I’ve never had a guy plot for six months to murder his wife for the insurance money or been initially duped by a brilliant tweenie with a genius I.Q., and I’ve never seen, met, or been influenced by a ghost. I’ve never gotten obsessed with a crime to the point where I alienated my family and got chewed out by my boss yet managed to find the one crucial piece of evidence that cracks the case and proves the suspect’s guilt beyond any doubt, at which point the detective unit throws me a surprise party to express their gratitude. Hah! When I find a crucial piece of evidence to solve the case, everyone in the detective unit gets a congratulatory e-mail complimenting them on their fine work. It may or may not have a PS: Oh, yeah, great job forensic unit.

Speaking of detectives, they are in charge of the investigation. My job is to advise them regarding forensic matters and respond to all reasonable requests. I do not tell them who to arrest. I do not tell them who to ‘hold for questioning.’ I do not interview witnesses or suspects, and certainly don’t chase either down dark alleys. You go ahead, officer. I’ll be here by the car.

But the most visible difference between reality and fiction is the wardrobe. Forensic specialists do not where low-cut, skin-tight designer sweaters with skinny jeans and high heels. We wear baggy, unflattering polo shirts and army pants and heavy boots that protect our feet but are hotter than crap in the summer months. That’s if you’re lucky enough to work for a department that will spring for your wardrobe, otherwise you have to provide your own clothing—and when you work around blood, bleach, decomposition fluid, black powder and dirt, you never wear anything that you would be too upset about if it got ruined. Because eventually, it will. Though I’m not sorry about missing out on the heels. During my internship at the lab I wore a pair of high-heeled boots one day. By noon I could hardly walk. So as a girl I love looking at the wardrobes of women on CSI and Rizzoli and Isles and Body of Proof, but believe me, no one—no one—actually dresses like that.

 Though I do love my skinny jeans….

3 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Lisa Black, Author and CSI”

  1. Selena Robins October 10, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Hi, Lisa, I really enjoyed your article. Isn’t it odd that television can get away with so much, whereas writers cannot? I don’t watch CSI, it’s too gruesome for me, but my husband used to like the one in Las Vegas and I caught a few scenes of the show. I have to laugh, because any time I caught any part of an episode, I’d comment on the women’s wardrobe and how low-cut their blouses were. LOL I’m sending him the link to this blog, as I know he’ll enjoy reading the reality of your career.

    Your book sounds interesting too.

    Thanks for another great blog, Nancy.

    • nancyelizabethlauzon October 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, Selena! I feel the same way about medical shows. Being a former nurse, I get a kick out of the fact that the doctors and nurses have so much time to do things other than their job. In reality, I hardly had enough time to go to the bathroom!

      Nancy

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