The Real C.S.I.
The most demanding position I experienced in policing was that of forensic investigation. My first time that I served with the section was from 1976 – 1983. There was a Sgt., myself, and a darkroom technician. Our call out schedule was to be shared, two weeks at a time. However due to issues with the Sgt., I wound up being on call 24/7 – weeks and sometime months at a time. When ever you were called out after normal shift it was always something serious. The ringing of the phone at night you would instinctively grab the phone on the first ring. You would get dressed, drive to the police station, and pick up your gear. You would then drive to the scene and process it. If you were lucky you might get back home, but in most instances you worked on the case till your shift started. You then had to fingerprint people locked over night, and attend early morning calls. Then work on the case you were called out on.
Murders, suicides, and suspicious deaths you would attend the postmortems to photograph the process and gather body samples that would be taken to the crime lab in Vancouver. One smell from this process that haunts me to this day is the smell of alcohol on a person after they have been drinking a lot. This was often the case when they opened the body cavity you would smell that pungent, sweet smell. So often crimes of violence are alcohol related. The smell of a decomposing human body is very unique, a sickly, sweet smell. Years later you will taste something similar in a food and it will cause a flashback. You are always left with triggers from sounds, smells, and tastes.
Alcohol during these years was the numbing agent and sleeping remedy. The person I replaced was fired due to alcohol and eventually was killed in a car accident. The Sgt. I worked with also succumbed to alcoholism. He often shared with me those haunting memories that stay with you. Each call adds to the container called the subconscious. A trigger will conjure up images in the mind of horrors past.
It was during this period that I drank a lot, especially at home. It was the start of downward spiral of negativity and isolation. Despite being in a group, I felt alone and empty.