Crime scenes are a familiar sight in Columbus, but the city’s Crime Scene Search Unit sees things very differently than we do.
When most people would turn away, they lean in to take a closer look.
Detective Phil Walden is one of those people. He has spent 25 years on the search unit, scouring the ground inside yellow police tape, documenting the tiniest bits of evidence.
He then heads back to his office to draw up what happened.
“I can barely draw a stick man, but I can do pretty well on here,” Walden said, mentioning a new computer-aided design system used to document crime scenes and save time.
Walden is credited with bringing the technology to the Columbus Division of Police.
“When you have multiple pieces of evidence at a crime scene, that can be tedious,” Walden said.
Crime scenes are built from rough sketches in the field and include the elements necessary to make the case stand up for prosecution.
Walden said he has been on nearly 6,000 crime scenes in his decades-long career. Investigators like him don’t usually get called unless someone is dead. He arrives at the crime scene not as a judge or jury, but to gather evidence.
“When they’re gone, it doesn’t matter what kind of lifestyle they lived before they got there, or before they got into this position of being dead,” he said. “Our job is to find out what happened.”
Walden was recently named Central Ohio Crime Stopper’s Officer of the Month for his longevity and dedication. He has never taken a sick day in 33 years on the force.
“I’ve told everyone, if I’m not dead or dying, I’ll be at work,” Walden said.
Though Walden deals with crime and death on a daily basis, he said it’s not all bad.
“The end result is good, when we’re able to do things to help solve cases and to help solve crimes,” Walden said.
Walden plans to retire at the end of the year. He joined the Columbus Division of Police in 1980.
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