PSFM President (Kalamazoo County Sheriff – Retired)
As you arrive, try to find
the first officer to have arrived at the scene, a supervisor
or the Crime Scene Tech to discuss with them (while
examining the scene yourself) among other topics, what is
the “nature of the crime”, how extensive
size-wise is the scene and where relevant physical
evidence is at and how it is currently marked for ID
As you take this scene
tour, you could be making your Rough Sketch too.
From first knowing the
expansiveness of the scene and where the “focus” is of the
scene itself, you will have a better ‘feel’ for where-best
to position your total station (aka: ReferencePoint/RP)
in order to 1)rule out any vision
obstructions, and 2)document as much as
possible from as few RP’s as necessary.
Repositioning or moving the RP is a topic covered
For example, as seen here the
“focus” was the relevant physical evidence seen on the
roadway surface (skid mark) and the location of a nearby
house to the intersection, specifically a certain window
facing said intersection.
~ Make This Process Easy
on Yourself ~
Once these issues are
learned, then positioning the total station (RP)
should be from a position of “comfort” for the Instrument
Rather than position it such
that the Instrument operator has to physically move or turn
left, right, and behind themselves (getting cables all
tangled up and possibly kicking the tripod stand) ~ position
it, as suggested here, from across the street where
long-term, physical movement is limited and ‘forward-only’
sighting/aiming is increased. Thus, “Making This
Process Easy On Yourself!” Of course, there will be
types of scenes and situations where time constraints plus
having the scene totally “yellow-taped” will permit you to
position the RP where ever the heck (!!) you want.
The below two scenes
illustrates “Scene Focus of Interest” areas from just one of
numerous RP’s. Captured were certain physical
features unique to the scene, distance and ‘shooting-cone
positions of opportunity’ and/or physical evidence that was
observed over a wide
Crime Scene documented by
east coast PD
Again, good thoughts to
consider include, as it relates to the RP placement-
learn the ‘nature of the crime’, walk the scene, and where
possible, choose to position the RP over a something
of a “permanent” nature, i.e. manhole cover, fire hydrant or
scribe/mark/drill/paint the precise location (as seen here).
Whether in an enclosed
parking ramp, underground tunnel, or an open field (GPS
& metal stake) a RP location can easily be
very useful feature of the modern total station is
its ability to measure to certain points of evidence
(surfaces) using “reflectorless”
(aka: Prismless) technology!!! This feature (new since
roughly 1999 in the U.S.A) combined with a built-in red
laser pointer (!!) further permits tremendous
FLEXIBILITY in how and where you choose to position
In some cases, forget about
having to 1) focus on the ‘target’ (evidence) and
2) having to position the Instruments ‘face-plate’ to
the operators ‘sternum’ height! Nearly any height will do,
and usually NO focusing necessary!!
Troopers from OH State Hwy
Patrol using ‘Prismless’ Instrument at max-height.
This isn’t just about a manufacture of total
stations that sell “reflectorless” technology.
Its much more than that….
(generally) & Leica
who have additionally incorporated a
just like a hand-held laser pointer, to their internal
‘reticle’ so that generally especially under low light
conditions, an operator can visually see where the
Instruments precise cross-hair is aimed …by just looking for
the RED aiming DOT!!
simple … and very handy (if used safely)!!!
used this method successfully for
…documenting a fires’ burn
pattern at a recent arson(see next diagram), on side
walls and ceiling area where there was no power for interior
lighting, it was a total blackout situation and flashlights
… documenting a drive-by
shooting scene on a neighborhood 2-ln. street where 100%
of the scene, including a reluctant witness residence across
from the victim’s house, was documented “reflectorless” with
the RED aiming DOT,
… documenting a vehicles’
crush pattern while it was parked at an indoor impound
… documenting a suspicious
occurrence in a multi-leveled interior of a parking
… documented a interior
ground floor booking/receiving area of a county jail
with nearly 20 RP’s stemming from a departments’ internal
… documented a
motorcycle-car fatal on a busy highway, etc. etc.
This process can totally be
a one-person operation for distances generally within
1,000+ ft. (!!)of the identified physical evidence.
This process then changes,
among other considerations, the types of scenes to
document and how much other scene data (detail) is
any side interior room. Nearly
any viewable crush configuration.
For documenting a vehicles’
crush/damage profile, most Crash Reconstructionist position
the RP 25-30 feet away from vehicle.
This is still a good
technique. One should also, like walking the crash scene to
get a “feel” of the issues at hand, walk up to the vehicle
and examine closely the overall pattern (folded sheet metal,
frame deformation, etc.) of the ‘contact’ and ‘induced’
Some crash reconstructionists’
aid their “reflectorless” documentation abilities by placing
white in color, dime-sized circular stickers where they wish
the ‘shot’ to be collected. The RED DOT can nicely be seen
using this technique under most circumstances.
And if necessary for
reconstruction and comparison purposes, the visible
white-dot stickers, as seen in above digital photo, make it
easy for the user to further understand the crash dynamics
and articulate, if possible, the sequence of events.
Reflectorless total station technology, combined with the
ability to SEE “live” the consequences of each ‘shot’ taken,
and the power to present the scene of any size and
configuration in something beyond 2D ~ but instead in REAL
3D ~ is invaluable.