Alaska’s first CSI undertakes blood and robbery in sub-zero weather

Shasta Pomeroy

Shasta Pomeroy

Alaska, the last frontier, currently has the first and only criminal scene investigators. What attracted native Alaska to forensic medicine?

Two years after earning a degree in justice from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Shasta Pomeroy was allowed to board with local police and observe outdoor crime scenes.

At that time, she wasn’t sure about her future. She was taking a law class but knew she didn’t want a career as a lawyer.

That night changed everything for her.

“I wanted to go to the scene. I wasn’t sure anymore in my life. My family was surprised, but they were very supportive,” she says.

Pomeroy completed his law class, but one summer on a five-week study trip to the University of California, Riverside, about 55 miles (88 km) east of downtown Los Angeles.

“Criminal investigation certification was expensive and meant a trip to the 48 states of the continental United States,” she says. “I was really looking to see if this was what I wanted.”

She learned about crime scene photography, bloodstain pattern recognition, DNA collection, entomology (insects) samples, and quickly confirmed that she made the right choice.

“I’m not emotional and I can’t explain it, but I just knew.”

Born in Oregon, she grew up from an early age in North Pole, a small town in Alaska, about 15 miles south of Fairbanks. Here, decorated all year round, there is a Santa Claus house, which always feels like Christmas.

Road sign for the Arctic Chamber of Commerce in Alaska.

Road sign for the Arctic Chamber of Commerce in Alaska.

In 2016, Pomeroy joined Fairbanks Police [FPD] As a data clerk, but studying in her downtime, I read forensic books “for fun.”

She then became an evidence engineer, storing and packaging evidence for later analysis by scientific researchers, and earning a master’s degree in judicial administration while “tagging and bagged.” Her final project examined the use of forensic medicine in law enforcement and how it could be applied within Alaska.

She had one goal in mind.

Over the next few years, she trained further in forensic medicine through the State Inspector General’s Office, the State Criminology Institute in Las Vegas, and online, and finally in March of this year she was the first CSI (Crime Scene Investigator). Was nominated for. FPD.

“I wanted to respect, care for, and go where I needed to be,” she says.

Shasta Pomeroy

Shasta Pomeroy

Her achievements went beyond the “Golden Heart” city (population 31,500), which also meant that her appointment was the first CSI in Alaska as a whole.

The 30-year-old Pomeroy, who has just returned from a “great” week of training at the Missouri Death Research Academy, enthusiastically talked about her journey.

“Before me, detectives and others were trained professionally, and state police had technicians on-site.”

She often mentions the encouragement she received.

“This position literally did not exist. [FPD] “Chief Ron Dupy and Deputy Chief Rick Sweet made it for me,” she says.

Writing reports is constant in her job, but she can always dust fingerprints, process footwear impressions, collect DNA samples, and be summoned to multiple crime scenes. There is.

“Murder, suspicious death, robbery-we have a lot of robbery-sexual assault, worse assault. We deal with everything.”

Working in Alaska presents some additional challenges.

Black Spruce Tree, Fairbanks, Alaska, United States,

Black Spruce Tree, Fairbanks, Alaska, United States,

Strengthening privacy laws means, for example, the increasing need for search warrants-and the famous frigid weather.

“The coldest scene I worked in was -33 degrees outdoors,” says Pomeroy.

“Before you start working, you need to warm your camera, battery, and hands. Drive-by shooting heats the bullet casing when fired from a weapon and freezes in the snow. You thick gloves You can’t put them in and take them out. “

“Sherlock Holmes principle of close observation”

The “CSI effect” is a television-inspired assumption among the general public that modern technology can be used to resolve crimes quickly, and Pomeroy admits that the truth has some basis.

“We have a 3D 360-degree imaging technology called Faro waiting for training and a Handheld Alternative Light Source (ALS) used to look for biological samples such as body fluids such as semen and saliva. scene.”

Shasta Pomeroy

Shasta Pomeroy

Like all technologies, Faro has some limitations, including the inability to obtain “substitutable” evidence of smoke, perfumes, flashes, and so on.

“Most of my work rests on my hands and knees, using Sherlock’s meticulous observation principles,” he said, carrying a Nikon camera and a pocket magnifying glass with LED and UV capabilities every time. Says Pomeroy.

She found herself on the rooftop, or alone in the many remote woodlands of Fairbanks. She admits to relying on coffee, often iced coffee, despite the weather, but none of this undermines her passion.

“Human nature seeks an answer”

“I can make a call without an hour of sleep and coffee, but that’s not a problem. I’m excited to get to work. This is really my call.”

Like many other people working in law enforcement, Pomeroy is very physically active during off-hours. She says it’s a “physical and artistic way to decompress and express yourself.”

“I’ve been a ballerina and dancer for years and I’m an aerialist for silk and trapeze. I also enjoy singing. I’m trying to get a piano.”

Pomeroy admits that he feels pressure as the first CSI, not as the first female CSI.

Law enforcement is a particularly male-centric profession, but she says she can only find support and everyone understands how useful her work can be.

CSI is usually expected to specialize, she is currently engaged in this area, and Pomeroy is seeking certification in areas such as mortality investigation and recognition and analysis of blood stain patterns.

She also assists Anchorage’s state inspector’s office in collecting postmortem biological samples. This allows the victim’s body to be released to the family in a timely manner.

“Human nature wants an answer,” she says.

“As part of the crime-solving puzzle, I can help give answers to victims and communities.”