Sensitive Site Exploitation Guide
Sensitive site exploitation (SSE), also called forensic photography, creates a visual record of the original scene and physical evidence at accidents, crime scenes and similar events. Designated authorities use this imagery for analysis, measurement, investigations and court evidence.
When asked to support an SSE operation, you are a vital part of the investigation process. It’s your responsibility to capture a visual record of the initial scene condition and all physical evidence. SSE imagery supports a variety of situations, including:
- air or ground mishaps
- suicide or homicide
- accidents or fatality
- mass graves
- weapon caches
- torture chamber
- weapons manufacturing facility
- improvised explosive device (IED) scene
- indirect fire (IDF) scene
- enemy safe house
The images you take may help investigators piece together what happened to assist with accident reports, criminal investigations, crime-solving, court evidence and disaster prevention. Apply the basic principles of photography - ISO, shutter speed and aperture - in the proper combination, so your imagery accurately represents the scene and physical evidence in their original state. Use these primary guidelines for your assinged SSE scene:
- Report to an on-scene commander and identify yourself immediately. The on-scene commander may represent safety, fire protection, security police, investigations, medical aircrew protection or the scene's senior officer.
- Ask for guidance on any safety precautions, specific imagery requirements and point of contact information for the investigating officer.
- Do not interfere with first responders and other personnel performing essential duties related to the emergency. Work with first responders to get close enough to capture the original scene's imagery without tampering/loss of evidence and without getting in their way.
- Do not touch anything or change any conditions! Photograph objects where they are.
- Adhere to policies that specifically address photographing classified items or equipment.
Create and bring a photo log to document the date and time images are captured and any relevant comments for the incident report or case file record. Use this checklist to ensure you capture all necessary images of the scene to support the investigative process.
Photograph the General View
Overview images of the scene provide a complete summary of the incident, evidence placement and scene conditions. Start at the farthest point outside the scene and work inward. Capture:
Establishing shots to show the entire scene in context, using a wide-angle view with identifiable landmarks, structures, signs, etc. to show the incident's location
General views of the scene, using a normal lens to prevent focal length distortion and show the scene as an average observer would see it
Point of entry and exit, if applicable, (e.g., doors and windows) that show where any suspect(s) may have entered, exited or used forced entry
Areas where on-scene commander removed items
Articles left at the scene (e.g., weapons, clothing, identification cards or other items)
Marks from tools, shoes, tires, etc.
Specific views or other photos of less obvious evidence as directed by the on-scene commander
Photograph the Exterior
Capture imagery that relates the scene to the surrounding area. Start by working at the outer perimeter and conduct a 360-degree rotation around the entire scene. Sites on government property and open to public view do not require a warrant. Capture:
Photograph the Interior
If applicable, document the interior. Capture:
Photograph the Four Corners
If the scene is inside of a room, capture:
Take Mid-range Photos
Use medium-range images to document the appearance of any specific objects in relation to the whole scene. Adjust the lighting and other parameters to ensure your imagery accurately represents what is visible to the naked eye. Start at the farthest point outside the scene and work inward. Capture:
Take Close-up Photos
Take close-up images of each piece of evidence before moving on to the next piece of evidence. Start at the farthest point outside the scene and work inward. Capture:
Document the Body
If an investigation requires body documentation, capture: