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Working with Burbank’s own ‘CSI’

Jackson Bell

This is the latest in an occasional series on Burbank Police

Department bureaus.

BURBANK -- Victoria Payson said there isn’t much difference

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between the Burbank Police Department’s Identification Section and

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” -- except for the designer clothing

and fancy cars featured in the CBS crime drama.

Payson, a forensic specialist supervisor, said that for the most

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part, the TV show encapsulates the functions of the section.

“Our job is to identify, collect and preserve evidence, whether

it’s something as small as photographing a city car damaged by a

fallen tree limb, or as serious as investigating a homicide,” she

said.

Forensic specialists gather latent fingerprints, bloodstains and

any other evidence that assist police in solving crimes. They also

photograph scenes and make diagrams to recreate incidents for judges

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and juries.

“When we go into the field and start a case, we have to think of

the end result, because we will later go to court and testify as

expert witnesses,” Payson said.

The amount of time spent on an incident can vary drastically. For

example, photographing a vehicle damaged by a hit-and- run accident

can take less than 15 minutes, compared to more than four weeks spent

investigating a homicide, she said.

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The section then protects all the evidence it obtains.

“An important part of our job is maintaining the integrity of the

evidence so it hasn’t been tampered with or altered,” said Celeste

Patchett, one of three forensic specialists on staff with the bureau.

What Patchett finds most fulfilling about her work is the

knowledge she is helping fight crime in Burbank.

“We’re doing good by getting people off the street who shouldn’t

be there,” she said.

But Payson said one of the hardest parts of the job is dealing

with a particular vulnerability.

“We all have our kryptonite,” she said. “I don’t like vomiting,

and Celeste doesn’t like broken bones.”


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