AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson “You ask them what their science background is, and they say, ‘Oh, I don’t like science and math.”‘ Evidence technicians need an associate degree and specialized training. They can earn starting salaries of about $32,000. Criminalists, who analyze the evidence, need a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or another hard science. With specialized training, they can earn starting salaries of $50,000 to $60,000. Lloyd Mahanay, senior criminalist at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, who also teaches forensic photography at Mission College, said television dramas can be a valuable recruiting tool, even if they don’t get all the details right. “A criminalist or evidence tech does not go and interview people, we don’t hunt for the suspects, we do not arrest anybody,” Mahanay said. “The only thing we really do is go to the scene and gather evidence, and then we go back to the lab and start analyzing the different evidence.” Inspired by crime dramas like “CSI,” waves of students have enrolled in forensic science programs, but professors and police say students aren’t always aware of the realities of the job. Being a criminalist, evidence technician or a crime scene specialist requires solid math and science skills, along with the stamina to deal with decomposing bodies and other unpleasant aspects of law enforcement. California State University, Northridge, sociology professor James David Ballard, who teaches criminology and anti-terrorism classes, said he frequently sees students who think “they can walk in, get a four-year degree, walk out and be one of those pretty people on TV.” “Students come in wanting to be profilers, wanting to be criminalists, but not understanding that these positions require a science background – the physics, the biology, the hematology,” Ballard said. On television, crime scenes are processed in minutes and the suspect is caught at the end of the show. But forensic students learn that in real life, evidence collection and analysis takes much longer and requires infinite care and patience. Mahanay’s students learn the proper way to photograph crime scenes, which Mahanay recreates using dummies and theatrical blood. Two of the scenarios last semester included a woman who committed suicide by slitting her own throat and a man who jumped off a building. “Some of the (real life crime) scenes are fairly gruesome,” Mahanay said. “A lot of (students) come in and think it only happens to adults. They say, ‘I could never go to a scene where a little kid has been killed.”‘ Janis Cavanaugh, who trains students for entry-level forensic jobs at the La Puente Valley Regional Occupational Program of the Forensic Science Academy, recently put her students through an evidence-gathering exercise that had the students processing re-created crime scenes from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. And when the students were done photographing the crime scene, taking measurements and tagging and bagging their evidence, they then presented their case in a courtroom setting. “CSI” isn’t the only influence. Many students are attracted to forensics, criminal justice and law enforcement fields because they know there are jobs available and because they have a real desire to help others. Even the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, still have an effect. David Schutzer, professor of anthropology at Pierce College, who teaches an introduction to forensic anthropology class, said forensic science also can be a good career choice for women. “It’s an up-and-coming science field without a very large entrenched male old-boys network, so it’s a great place for females to get into science, because there’s no real glass ceiling that they hit.” Lisa M. Sodders, (818) 713-3663 firstname.lastname@example.org 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!