Only 10 police districts have scientific assistants despite each police district being allotted one person each
The post of scientific assistant in the Forensic Department of the police is vacant in seven districts of the State. The three Forensic Science Laboratories in the State too are understaffed, delaying examination of forensic evidence.
Each police district in the State has been allotted a District Mobile Forensic Lab with a scientific assistant to examine crime scenes. Only 10 police districts currently have scientific assistants. The staff in these districts now has to take additional charge of crime scene investigation in the seven districts with vacant posts.
Scientific assistants attached to the Mobile Forensic Labs have the key responsibility of reaching crime scenes quickly to collect forensic data. The evidence collected from the scene of crime is crucial not only in hunting down criminals but also presenting a watertight case in court.
The District Mobile Forensic Lab Unit handling cases in Kochi city examined around five murder cases in 2013. The unit also examined the scene of hundreds of other crimes such as theft, accidents, and attempted murder. Besides this, the scientific assistant from the Kochi team also handles additional charge of the Alappuzha police district, where about 13 murder investigations required forensic assistance in 2013. The situation is similar in the Ernakulam Rural district, where the mobile forensic unit handles cases of 37 police stations. Until a few months ago, the Ernakulam Rural unit also handled cases from Thrissur city.
Despite the pressures of the job, scientific assistants said that their pay scales had not been revised much in recent years. The Forensics Department, along with the fingerprint division, form the scientific investigation team. A scientific assistant in Forensics starts with a gross salary of about Rs. 28,000. They are officially ranked above the Circle Inspector grade of the State police. However, while pay scales of other departments have been revised greatly, not much has been done for the Forensics experts. This prompts the forensics officials, some of the Ph.D. holders, to look for more lucrative jobs with less pressure.
Senior officials attributed the vacant posts to the delay in recruitment by the Public Service Commission. “Recruitment for one post is going on and the vacancy will be filled shortly. There is no specific reason why people leave the department. It’s only a natural attrition,” said a senior official of the State Forensic Science Laboratory at Thiruvananthapuram.
Until the posts are all filled, current employees will have to handle the additional burden of neighbouring districts as well.