City News | Greensboro, North Carolina

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Crime fighting is a popular theme in Hollywood. Many people could easily put together a list of shows or movies dedicated to solving crimes and bringing criminals to justice. Did you know that there have been 441 episodes of “NCIS” produced in 20 years with three spin-off series? “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” premiered 337 episodes over 15 years and produced four additional series.

Real-life Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Kelli Wise has been fighting crime for around the same time, first as a member of the United States Air Force Security Forces. United States and now with the Greensboro Police Department (GPD).

And before we go any further, Wise answered the question on many minds: does your work look like what we see on TV?

“No, it’s not,” Wise said. “On the one hand, we don’t solve crimes in 45 minutes or less, and although we’re advancing in technology, we still haven’t reached the imagination of what they have on TV.”

(So ​​there you go. Don’t believe everything you see on TV!)

Wise spends most of his time in the field, collecting evidence from crime scenes. She searches for fingerprints, footprints, blood, and other materials that provide clues in criminal investigations.

“Our main duty is to recognize the evidence, preserve it and collect it so that it can be used in the investigation,” Wise said.

Once recovered, Wise returns to the Forensics Center to catalog and store the materials for further testing. Forensic samples are tested for DNA and possible matches to individuals listed in different databases.

“It’s always nice to feel that you did well,” she noted. “As if you could use your skills to bring a criminal to justice.”

Wise didn’t grow up wanting to be a CSI, but learned about the opportunity through a vocational rehabilitation program sponsored by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). After nearly nine years in the Air Force Military Police, her service was suddenly cut short by an injury, and the single mother of three didn’t know what to do next.

“It wasn’t rainbows and butterflies,” she said. “I had no plan.”

Wise knew she loved law enforcement, but also knew she didn’t want to be a police officer.

The VA program helped her see the potential of forensics. After attending a local community college, Wise transferred to North Carolina A&T State University, which had recently added a forensic science stream to its criminal justice major. Two of her teachers were GPD officers (Captains SF Barnes and EL Cuthbertson) and a field trip to the GPD’s Forensic Services Division (her future workplace) inspired her to pursue employment at the city. After graduating from A&T with honors and certificates in crime scene investigation and forensic science, GPD hired Wise from a pool of 1,500 applicants. She has served in the force since 2018.

Greensboro Police Department CSI Kelli Wise stands in front of the police station.

Military service and a career as a CSI were not on Wise’s radar as she grew up in Charlotte. Today, she is grateful for the experiences and the opportunity to serve both her nation and the community. Wise joined the Air Force right out of high school, but it wasn’t until her friends and family were jubilant after graduating from Air Force Basic Military Training that she realized the importance of her decision. Wise recalled her special role when visiting students from her old high school as part of an Air Force recruiting program.

“It was pretty cool,” she said. “They had a lot of questions and were amazed at how interesting my work was.”

Likewise, when she joined the City, she knew she had an important role. But it wasn’t until she started solving crimes that she found true fulfillment.

“You get more of a sense of purpose when you accomplish things like being able to catch a suspect,” Wise said. “It’s great to know that you did your job the way you’re supposed to.”

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