Are forensics as well funded as shown on TV shows ?

I’ve watched many (or maybe some depending on your definition) TV shows like Law and Order, Law and Order Spinoffs, Criminal Minds, The Closer etc.

In all these shows it seems like the detectives have a very well staffed forensic services (labs?) at their beck and call. The services I allude to are :

1> A psychologist to determine mental competency
2> DNA tests - and DNA matching to a database - very prompt and no limits on the number of samples
3> Chemist or forensic scientist to check for fibers, minute components (Gas Chromatography / Molecular Spectroscopy )
4> Autopsy specialist - looking at various parts of the body and determining cause of death
5> Ballistics specialists

These all services appear to be very expensive and I would guess the people in these jobs would make a lot more working outside.

So my question is - Are the above services as competent and well funded as shown in these shows ?

Very doubtful. Have you noticed that just about every time the police need toxicology reports (from suspected drug use, unexplained death…) they almost always mention how it will take several weeks? It is very doubtful it actually takes this long to do the tests; instead the delays are due to backlogs…

Take a look at the offices and labs in CSI: gleaming glass walls with plenty of light. In reality, they’d be in some 40-year-old building (probably in the basement) with institutional paint and fluorescents, and no such thing as a clean desk.

Nowhere near that funding in reality.

One recent example: the city of Detroit has DNA samples from hundreds or rapes, that could have been used in DNA testing to identify rapists (who tend to be repeat offenders) – but this was not done due to financial costs.

As I have learned from my earlier posts to this board, one should never confuse film or TV with reality.

The shows you mentioned are as far from documentaries as you can get, and while they often have ‘criminal experts’ who advise them on certain aspects of police procedures and forensics, what you see on these shows is pure fiction. Having a large staff of dedicated people to just focus on one particular crime, however heinous, just doesn’t happen in real life.

You might want to check out a show on A&E called 'The First 48", in which they chronicle what really happens after someone is murdered in a major US city. While it is edited to show things happening in a particular sequence, I believe it realistically depicts how most murders are worked and solved in the US today.

As it turns out, most of the work in solving these murders involves tracking down ‘persons of interest’ in hopes of getting someone to talk, so most of the show is police interviews and the tracking down of people who may be involved.

There is, of course, some forensics happening in the background, and sometimes important clues to who did it, such as fingerprints, are discovered, but DNA tests can take weeks or months and microfiber analysis isn’t as common as you might think…

Recently the backlog at DPS where I live for blood tests in DWI’s was 9 months… so, I’d say no, they’re not that well funded.

Hell no.

Real forensics types also don’t do nearly as much sexy faux policework as they do on CSI, either.

As an earlier poster said, lots of time in a drab, dark basement.


In the city near me, they have a 3-6 month backlog of forensic evidence which may force them to delay trials or even release suspects. And things look worse for the future as the crime rate is increasing.The state of Indiana is also behind on loading DNA profile into CODIS (the national DNA database) meaning that very likely murderers and rapists are walking the streets when they could be in prison.


Emphatically NO!

Here in SE Wisconsin I can take things to the state crime lab. If anything (DNA, etc.) gets done it can take many, many weeks (not because they’re screwing around, but because there are very few doing the job, i.e. underfunded).

Some things are just kicked back. I was trying to track a serial tagger by getting finger prints and DNA off a spray paint can. The little prick was tagging the living shit out of a significant portion of the county, but individual locations did not equal felony status. It took forever to get my letter of “meh”.

Which should tell the OP that all the other stuff is just as underfunded. Try getting a voice print analysis or psych review on something. Unless it’s a significant felony it’s either not happening or it’s taking a zillion years.

And (by my observation) Wisconsin is quite progressive in this. If it’s this bad here I can only imagine what it’s like elsewhere!