What It's Like to Be an Underwater Crime Scene Investigator

(Photo: Underwater Criminal Investigators)

The diver is holding a holstered knife in one hand and a stolen handgun in the other. Perhaps the last criminal to possess them thought that they'd disappear in the murky water. But crime scene divers found them.

This is the world of underwater criminal investigation, a criminal justice specialization described at length in an article at Atlas Obscura. These divers know how to search bodies of water for evidence and how to handle that evidence so that it can be used in the criminal justice system. Mike Berry, an underwater criminal investigator, describes the hazards of his profession:

The taxing conditions don't just involve muck and pitch blackness. “The water that we dive in, a lot of it is contaminated," Berry says, "so just ingesting some of that water could kill you.” Divers can step on broken glass or injure their hands on nails. And then there are the creatures of the deep, some of whom make their presence known at highly inconvenient moments. Depending on the location of the investigation, divers may have to contend with turtles, poisonous snakes, alligators, or inquisitive fish.

“The worst I’ve been bit was from a snapping turtle," says Berry. "You know, you can’t see them, so as your hand is moving along the bottom, feeling, you hope you get the rear end of the turtle instead of the front end. I got the front end one day ... it went right through my hand, from one side to the other.” The pain, he says, was "like a lightning strike.”

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