CSI vs. Reality


I think it’s safe to assume that several people have seen or heard of any of the numerous CSI showsThis television series is exciting, super scientific, and very dramatic. What if I told you that it’s not really like that in real life, actually not at all like the real thing. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Think about how many TV shows like to exaggerate and create a more fascinating world compared to real thing. Now, I love TV and I can easily say I have an obsession with several TV shows, but CSI doesn’t make the list for me. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the show, but I’ve noticed some people think what they do on the show is all possible.

There’s a great infographic on DailyInfographic.com that perfectly captures exactly what the key differences are.

Firstly, one of the largest inconsistencies is the general timeframe. Typically on the show we see our protagonists find the crime scene, gather suspects, interview, and solve the case in about a week or so. Back in reality, we would be lucky to fully process and crime scene and gather suspects in a week. Also, any kind of forensic testing only takes seconds to get the results. Well, on average any kind of forensic testing can take from weeks to months before having any kind of result. In addition, there needs to already be a reliable sample before any department is going to shell out the cash for testing. Forensic testing can be expensive, to try to obtain DNA from a sample of blood, semen or hair can cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. So why would police department spend that money if they didn’t have any other kind of evidence?


Another point to consider is the range of duties the CSI’s have on the show. We see them gather evidence, analyze it in the lab, try to figure out who are suspects based on evidence, and even make arrests. All of those duties are broken up on an individual basis:

  • Police Officer or CSI: Find, mark and gather evidence at a crime scene.
  • Crime Lab Technician: Analyze evidence in the crime lab.
  • Detectives: Try to figure out suspects and what happened at the crime scene.
  • Police Officer & Detectives: Find suspects and make arrests

It is very rare to see any one person handle more than one of these tasks. All the evidence is securely checked in and out through the Chain of Command, which shows who has been in contact with the evidence.

Finally, I hate to say it but some of the “methods” they use to analyze evidence is just plain IMPOSSIBLE. Now I do understand that maybe.. just maybe one day some of these methods could be possible. Here’s an excellent example of how imagination takes over reality.

I really hope your reaction was a face like this…


I have spoken with police officers and crime lab technicians and there are people who truly believe this is possible. Congratulations! You are not one of those people (unless you do still believe). Science is truly incredible and we are capable of some pretty neat things, but that also means it costs money. Which unfortunately, police departments do not have much of.

So next time you’re watching CSI or any of these kind of shows, keep it in the back of your mind that entertainment does not mean reality. 

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