The up-close crime snapper
Briar Douglas sees crime scenes from every angle, up close, and in colour. Emma Whittaker reports on life as a police crime scene photographer.
A normal day could see Briar Douglas snapping shots of victims of assault, car crashes, robbery scenes, right up to murder scenes and postmortems.
‘‘We photograph pretty much anything you can think of in regards to crime and police.
‘‘Some scenes are absolutely disgusting really, but I liken it to what any emergency worker goes through.
‘‘Any emergency nurse is seeing possibly even more gore than what I am but when I get to a scene, and there could be a body that has met a very harsh end, it’s like ‘eeeeww’ for a minute and and then work clicks in and it’s more about how I’m going to get this photo in this circumstance.’’
Mrs Douglas moved into the photography section after three years as a front line police officer. That was nine years ago. ‘‘It was just good timing and I never went back.’’
Like most of the team she wasn’t already trained as a photographer.
‘‘The preference is that you do have an interest in it.
‘‘If there’s a birthday, or if we’re going on holiday, I’m always the one that’s known to have a camera.’’
But the types of photos she shoots for work are all about documenting the finer details and building evidence, rather than art.
‘‘That’s the tricky thing about when we switch into doing public relations stuff and they want us to go to those family days and suddenly you can get all creative.’’
The police photography unit for Auckland is based in Otahuhu and covers the area from Mercer all the way up to Northland.
Mrs Douglas has seen it all in her time.
‘‘I can think of a number of strange photos and situations, but none that you could print for public reading.
‘‘People do awful things to each other, even after nine years it still amazes and disappoints me. That’s probably a good thing though.’’
Some of her toughest days on the job have been when she has had to deal with animals.
‘‘People take the micky about what that says about me, but I think it’s quite normal.’’
Recently she attended the postmortem of a dog that had gone missing and turned up back on the owner’s lawn in a mutilated state.
‘‘It wasn’t upsetting as such, it was more a case of if I didn’t have to be here I wouldn’t be. I spent a lot of time looking at the ceiling in that one.’’
Mrs Douglas doesn’t see herself changing jobs any time soon.
‘‘It sounds cheesy because every cop in every other area probably says this, but I love the variety, especially when I’m on the road — that’s my favourite.’’
When teams are ‘‘on the road’’ they pick up their list of jobs in the morning and then often end up darting back and forward from one end of the city to the other
‘‘I can semi-plan my day but then it always changes.’’
Full view: Briar Douglas is a crime scene photographer.