At just 5 feet tall, new Scenes of Crime Officer Tiffany Rankine doesn’t exactly look like someone who would be on the front lines of policing. But don’t let appearances fool you.
“I don’t necessarily have the stature of a crime fighter,” admits Tiffany, “but gathering forensic evidence is an important way to fight crime.”
At the beginning of July, Tiffany was confirmed in rank as a full Scenes of Crime Officer in the RCIPS’ Crime Scene Investigation Unit after two years and four months of work as a Trainee in the Unit. She says this is the next step on a professional journey that began many years ago, stemming from her love of science, including her enjoyment of crime scene investigation television shows such as CSI.
While pursuing her Associate’s Degree in Science at UCCI she decided to enroll in a forensics-related internship in order to gain hands-on experience in a field that has always interested her. She spent two summers working in the Health Services Authority’s Forensics Lab, where she first realized that the work she was doing was a lot different than how it was portrayed on TV. However, this realization did nothing to dampen her interest in the field, and after leaving UCCI she began pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science at the University of Tampa.
Academic & financial difficulties prevented her from continuing on campus after she had completed her first year and so she returned home to Cayman, where she was born and raised. Eventually she saw the position open for a Scenes of Crime Trainee with the RCIPS and knew that was the opportunity she had been looking for.
“To be a full SOCO you need several years’ experience,” she says, “whereas the requirements for the trainee position were all things I already had.”
She was so determined to secure the position that, upon seeing that photography experience was preferred for the role, she took the extra step of completing an online Foundations of Forensic Photography course prior to her interview. Her extra initiative paid off, and she started work as a Scenes of Crime Trainee in March 2017.
She says that finally being able to work on actual crime scene investigation was even more of an eye-opener than her work in the HSA’s Forensics Lab. But, even though it was not quite as glamorous as it had been made to seem on TV, she still found it extremely rewarding. She recalls one case that involved an elderly woman living on her own, whose home had been broken into multiple times, and who was feeling understandably shaken. Tiffany was able to recover a fingerprint during the crime scene investigation, which eventually led to a conviction, and to the elderly woman being able to regain some peace of mind.
During her time as a trainee, Tiffany progressed from being supervised while assisting with cases to working scenes on her own. The RCIPS also arranged additional training for her, including a course in Miami shortly after she was hired.
No specific timeline was set for Tiffany’s period as a Trainee. Instead, it was her own progress and development that determined the timing of her transition to a full Scenes of Crime Officer. When she learned of her promotion when signing her new employment contract, she was pleasantly surprised and grateful that her hard work had been acknowledged.
She says she owes her success to her colleagues in the unit, who have supported and helped guide her throughout her time as a trainee. “I am blessed to have them, they have been great teachers. They are very patient, and extremely knowledgeable.”
Tiffany’s advice to young Caymanians interested in any particular field is that it’s important to stick to your passions and not be discouraged, even when you encounter obstacles along the way. For those interested in the field of forensics in particular, she advises them to get some firsthand experience whenever possible.
“I would definitely encourage people to do internships,” she says with a smile at one of the RCIPS’ summer interns who is sitting nearby. “A lot of people are interested because it seems so cool and glamourized, but then when they get into it they realize it’s not for them.”
When asked about the biggest misconceptions people have a bout the field, she smiles and reaches over for a small sheet of paper: a brochure with information about the RCIPS’ Crime Scene Investigation Unit. She points to a section titled, “Things CSI Shows Get Wrong.”
Two examples are the idea that DNA results can be received within a matter of minutes, when in reality it can take as long as four to six weeks; and the idea that blood glows under UV light, which it doesn’t. She says the amount of paperwork involved in the role is also often a shock to people.
The brochure was created by Tiffany and her colleague Brittney Parchman, who was the first RCIPS Scenes of Crime Trainee to be confirmed as a full Scenes of Crime Officer; both of them wanted to clarify all of the misconceptions that TV shows can create about day-to-day forensic detective work.
Detective Sergeant Marcia Codner heads up the Scenes of Crime Office at the RCIPS, and has supervised Tiffany throughout her training.
“Tiffany has been passionate about working towards becoming a full CSI member of the team; and has taken on challenges in areas that she had no prior knowledge in,” says DS Codner. “She is a great ambassador to other young Caymanians who may be interested in Crime Scene Investigation. We are proud of her.”
Now that she has achieved this step, Tiffany says her next goal is to complete her Bachelor’s, which she is continuing to work towards via online classes with the University of Maryland UC. After that, she wants to pursue her Master’s, and then decide on a particular area to specialize in. She says she has no plans to leave the Cayman Islands or the RCIPS, but wants to continue to contribute to the community as much as she can.
“I like working here where I’m from, serving the people that I know,” she says. “We view Cayman as such a peaceful place, even though there are moments when it’s not. So the fact that I get to be part of the effort to make it safer, and to try to get it back to the days when you could just leave your door open, is really nice.”
As for the television shows that first sparked her interest, Tiffany says they no longer hold quite the same appeal.
“I can’t stand watching CSI anymore,” she says with a laugh.
by Mikhail Campbell, Media Relations Officer