Central Penn College - Don't Mention "CSI" to Sam Morgan!

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January 10, 2019 Don't Mention "CSI" to Sam Morgan!

Sam Morgan is not a fan of the TV show CSI.

No, let me restate that… Morgan, a criminal justice professor who’s a former cop, absolutely hates CSI. That includes the original show and the three spinoffs––CSI: Miami, CSI: NY and CSI: Cyber. And his extreme loathing also extends to Without a Trace and Cold Case, two other police shows that live in the CSI universe, whatever that means.

"These shows might make great TV drama, but they’re not an actual snapshot of forensic processes within the field of criminal justice,” says Morgan.

There are many reasons for his intense dislike of the long-running TV series and its offspring, including:

  • The acting – “Taking off your sunglasses isn’t acting. Putting on your sunglasses isn’t acting either. Also, real cops don’t wear sunglasses when they’re inside. They just don’t do it.”
  • The apparel – “No cop is wearing designer clothes, including stiletto heels or $500 Italian loafers, to a crime scene. No one is pulling up in a fancy, $100,000 sport car either.”
  • The setting – “No crime lab looks like a European disco. Sorry, the taxpayers wouldn’t go for that.”

Real-World Experience vs. TV “Reality”

As a former police officer in Lower Allen Township for 22 years, Morgan has a firm understanding of how actual cops dress and behave. But his biggest gripe about the show is its depiction of crime show investigations, especially about who performs what activities.

“Forensic scientists are lab rats. They’re not out in the field working any crime scenes,” says Morgan, who chairs the Criminal Justice program at Central Penn College. “It’s the crime scene technicians who are at the actual crime scenes… they’re the people out there in the dark, in the cold, in places you don’t want to be, gathering evidence and working with cops.”

The false reality presented by the TV show has consequences, especially for high school students who watch the show. “Too many young people want to be forensic scientists, which is fine in and of itself, but what they don’t understand is that position requires about 10 years of schooling,” says Morgan. “When many of them hear that, the wind goes out of their sails a little bit.”

Fortunately, Morgan is quick to point out there are plenty of other criminal justice careers for those who aren’t inclined to spend a decade or more attending college. “At Central Penn, we have two- and four-year criminal justice programs that prepare students for a variety of law enforcement careers,” says Morgan. He promptly reels off a dozen or so criminal justice jobs, including:

  • Crime scene technician
  • Police officer
  • Criminal investigator
  • Corrections officer
  • Parole and probation officer
  • Various positions in the federal and state court systems

“The list of true careers is long and well-paying within the criminal justice or homeland security management fields,” says Morgan.

Even though he’s a staunch critic of the show CSI, Morgan has a true appreciation for both forensic scientists and crime scene technicians––the people who do the tough, time-saving, out-of-the-spotlight work that enables the police to catch and convict criminals.

“The men and women who investigate crime scenes are dedicated, selfless professionals who have focused their lives on the service of others,” says Morgan. “The work is hard, long and, in no way, glamorous. These professionals are lifelong learners who are part of something greater than themselves. There’s much to be said for that!”