DUBAI // The man who shaped the UAE's forensic photography department is so good at his job, it is practically an art form, so it is small wonder he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the nation's leader.
Lt Col Jassim al Awadi, one of the first crime scene photographers to be employed by Dubai Police, was given the UAE Appreciation Award for Science, Arts and Literature by Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE, for his contribution to his profession.
The award, organised by the Ministry of Culture, is granted annually in the genres of science, literature, art and sport for distinguished figures in the UAE. There is a financial prize of Dh1 million, distributed equally among the winners.
Lt Col al Awadi was born on July 1, 1961 but only got his first camera when he was 18 years old. However, his passion for photography started before that. "One of my older brothers loved photography, and I learnt to love it from him," he said.
He joined the Dubai Police in 1981 after graduating from the police academy, and was among the first delegations to be sent to study forensic sciences abroad, thus becoming one of the first police crime scene photographers when he returned in 1986. At the time, the crime scene photography unit consisted of three people - he became the fourth.
"I still remember my first assignment: it was a murder case. A man was found tortured and murdered in an apartment in the Bani Yas square area," he recalled. "The apartment was little and I had to take a panoramic picture to get all the details of the place. I felt such a responsibility to get everything right."
Lt Col al Awadi was so involved in his photography work at the time that he forgot to follow up the case and find out if the perpetrator was ever arrested.
Another case he recalled was a shooting that occurred in Al Hamirya area in 1988 - one person was murdered. "We had to use a new technique - 'painting with light' - to be able to take pictures in a very dark area. The mission was successful and we managed to take pictures of the scene," he said. Police caught the perpetrator, he added.
The concept of crime scene photography was very primitive at the time, according to Lt Col al Awadi - it only served the function of documenting crime. But with time this has changed, and crime scene photography has become a tool for collecting evidence.
Lt Col al Awadi went on to help establish the Crime Scene Investigation department of Dubai Police in 2000, where crime scene photography came to play an important role not only in documenting crimes and evidence, but also finding evidence - such as using photography to lift fingerprints from crime scenes.
Today, crime scene photography is an integral part of the work of the Dubai Police forensic department, which has more than 300 employees.
"There are many challenges with our job, but the most important one is that you can not know the environment you will be shooting in, or the time - everything happens so suddenly and you need to move quickly. You need to always be prepared and have all your equipment with you at all times, as you do not know what you might need for the success of the job," he said.
"A crime scene photographer needs to be educated about many aspects, some to do with photography techniques and others to do with forensic science and criminal investigations - therefore the challenge of educating and developing your skills is there on a daily basis."
Lt Col al Awadi said that the award he received on December 2 meant for him a bigger responsibility to develop crime scene photography in the country even further. "I hope that one day we will have a photography academy in the UAE that will teach photography in all its genres, as it is an important science and art."
More than 3,000 cases
DUBAI // The police Forensic Evidence and Criminal Sciences administration has successfully handled more than 3,000 criminal investigations this year, including a child murder case and a string of robberies, according to a senior police official.
"We have solved 3,269 cases through our means involving some of the most complex cases this year," said Maj Ahmed Abdullah, the director of the administration's forensic prints section.
The number of cases handled last year was not available. The agency's successes included lifting fingerprints from under water in the murder case of 4-year-old Moosa Mukhtiar Ahmed, which led his killer to receive a death sentence.
* Awad Mustafa