There should be no surprise that the actual scenarios depicted weekly in the CSI franchise tend to merge the line of fact and fiction, making for a puzzling yet enthralling hour of television neither realistic or unrealistic.
CSI has put crime forensics into an intriguing spotlight. As director of the Pasadena Department Regional Crime Lab, Pamala J. McInnis constantly darts questions and validates points and scenarios made on the famed television show.
"I want the people that are really interested in forensic science to really know what it’s about," she said.
McInnis strives to protect the validity of forensic science, and try to dissuade the fiction from the fact, in an effort to bring enthusiasm but a realistic perspective to the study. McInnis’ roots are in blood sampling. She would take a sample and determine blood type from that specific sample. But with the expansion of technology and new additions to the repertoire, it was only a matter of time until her methodology was to become dated.
The greatest alteration to forensic science, according to McInnis, was the existence of DNA sampling. "DNA revolutionized everything, but it kind of made what I did a little obsolete." she said.
McInnis then adjusted her specialty to understanding and deciphering DNA, McInnis claims that her job became infinitely rewarding as the advent of DNA changed the landscape of solving crimes. "We don't do the in-depth testing we used to do, but now we are looking for evidence we can't see because you can't see DNA evidence.”
CSI seems to bring a blurred line to the actions of forensic scientists. It is not a glamorous job, but solving real crimes and bringing comfort to families it truly the greatest reward.
"Yes, I've seen a lot of dead bodies but I look at them and think what I can do as a scientist to help solve this crime, what kind of evidence can I find? I've seen it all, but it’s when you think you've seen it all then there is something else.” She goes on to say “After 28 years, still each crime scene teaches me something new. I never get burned out because I'm constantly learning and thinking and trying to solve pieces of the puzzle."
Pamala J. McInnis may find the fact and fiction in popular crime shows like CSI a bit discouraging, but the reality is that it brings awareness to the career and it allows young people to explore crime forensics for what it truly is.