Current or Past Collaboration in Forensic Science: Collin County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office, Criminal Investigation Section
On March 18, 2004, 20-year-old Rachelle O’Neil Tolleson was reported missing from her Farmersville, Texas, home. Regrettably, her badly burned remains were found on March 23, 2004. Sheriff’s office investigators began the crime scene investigation and immediately discovered evidence of a fire near Tolleson’s body. Not all the fire logs were completely destroyed; some were collected as evidence. During the investigation, investigators identified a suspect who was later said to have delivered the fire logs to a party that had occurred in a neighboring community the night Tolleson became missing.
Investigators from the Collin County Sheriff’s Office, continuing efforts to place the suspect at the crime scene, tried searching for ways to compare the firewood found at the crime scene to that at the party site. They searched for a tree ring lab and tried to link the firewood by comparing tree rings. Although this was unsuccessful, the tree ring analyst informed them of a research scientist who had begun studying the chemical properties of wood by using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy. The scientists working on this technique were able to compare certain elements of each remaining log of wood from both the crime scene and the party. The Collin County Sheriff’s Office was 99.99 percent confident the logs were identical, being from the same tree or at least from the same stand of trees. This resulted in the suspect being found guilty of capital murder. He is now on death row at the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Enhancement of Forensic Capability by a Forensic Science Provider: Florida Department of Law Enforcement
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) crime laboratories, like others across the United States, began experiencing problems with the volume of incoming cases outpacing the productive capacity of the laboratories, resulting in an enormous backlog of cases and unacceptable turnaround times.
The FDLE recognized the need for a solution to the ever-growing volume of pending forensic cases and the unacceptable time frames used in processing a case. The forensic laboratory personnel embraced the challenge of reducing the forensic backlog.
Although little could be done to reduce the incoming workload significantly, the forensic laboratory members designed a strategic plan focusing on the four disciplines with the highest number of pending cases, including biology, chemistry, firearms, and latent prints. A number of initiatives to increase productivity were implemented, including streamlining laboratory processes. Case acceptance guidelines were developed to limit the number of submissions accepted, and forensic technologists accepted additional responsibilities. These two initiatives had the greatest impact on reducing the backlog.
In addition to the case acceptance guidelines, the FDLE recognized the need for additional laboratory personnel. Instead of hiring additional forensic analysts, FDLE crime laboratories reprogrammed 22 forensic technologist (FT) positions, expanding their roles to include additional responsibilities in conjunction with the enhanced FT utilization plan. Through this plan, FTs are now responsible for the screening of incoming biology cases and firearms database entries, thus freeing crime laboratory analysts for complex casework, data review, and reporting.
The success of these initiatives has resulted in a higher level of satisfaction from local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and citizens throughout the state.
Significant Investigative Value in a Major Crime: Tustin, California, Police Department
On Friday, February 9, 2007, a subject dressed as a construction worker entered the local Home Depot in Tustin and asked where the manager was, with the intent of robbing the contents of a safe in the store. When Thomas Egan, the store manager, said he did not have the keys, the subject ran to the front “pro desk” and pointed a gun at the cashier, demanding money. When Egan approached the subject and told him to leave, the subject pointed the gun at Egan and pulled the trigger, killing Egan.
During the search and collection of evidence, investigators from the Tustin Police Department located a white sock in the receiving area where the suspect first brandished his weapon. They then reviewed video surveillance and saw the sock fall from the bag from which the suspect pulled the gun. The sock was collected and sent to the lab. The crime lab swabbed the inside and outside of the sock and found DNA. The DNA was amplified using the polymerase chain reaction method and sent to the Department of Justice. Within several hours, a match had been made to a man who matched the description of the shooter. This is a perfect example of DNA analysis playing an integral role in solving a horrific and senseless crime. Without it, this case would have taken much longer to solve and possibly could have remained unsolved. The suspect was arrested, and the district attorney’s office filed numerous charges, including first-degree murder with special circumstances.
Innovation in Forensic Technology: Thomas F. Brady and Michael S. Maloney, Forensic Consultant Unit, Naval Criminal Investigative Service
Members of the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Forensic Consultant Unit recently completed a massive reconstruction of a four-month-old homicide crime scene in Haditha, Iraq, which consisted of five locations that had already been cleaned or rebuilt and the decedents had been buried before any postmortem examinations. Out of necessity, the scene examination was restricted to four hours due to threats of mortar attacks, roadside bombs, and other hostile attacks by insurgents. To obtain the maximum amount of evidence in a limited amount of quality time, NCIS forensic consultants had to prepare themselves, their equipment, their assistants, and their U.S. Marine escort before departing a safety zone. During the reconstruction process after their scene exam, the agents realized that the techniques they developed and lessons they learned would benefit NCIS agents deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan who might encounter a crime scene located in a hostile area. A training program was created from their experience.
The Tactical Crime Scene Investigations training program was created through the experience of both Thomas Brady and Michael Maloney. The training was developed not only to hone the rapid thought process to prioritize evidence collection and documentation but also to apply agent safety with preplanning. The tactical crime scene kit that was developed is continually updated to encompass critical evidence collection items. The adaptability of the Combat Crime Scene Protocol has crossover applications in civilian law enforcement for situations involving highly perishable crime scenes and tactical crime scenes.
Current or Past Contribution to Forensic Science by Police Agency: Palm Bay, Florida, Police Department
The Palm Bay, Florida, Police Department and DNA:SI Labs, the forensic unit of DNA Security, Incorporated, collaborated for more than a year to develop a practical DNA-based investigative tool for police departments. This public-private collaboration created the Local DNA Index System, known as LODIS. This system brings the power of DNA identification directly to the desktops and cruisers of detectives and patrol officers. (For details, see the article in the April 2008 issue of the Police Chief titled “LODIS, a New Investigative Tool: DNA Is Not Just Court Evidence Anymore,” starting on page 150 or click here.)
The collaboration was initiated to prove that average police departments, properly trained and working with an accredited laboratory, could directly deploy and utilize local DNA databases to benefit the unique needs of their communities. Before LODIS, no policing agency that did not have its own laboratory had collected, preserved, recorded, and submitted DNA evidence to establish its own DNA identification database. LODIS proves that a DNA database system designed with “forensic intelligence” was a viable tool for most U.S. police departments. It has proven effective in identifying local criminals who commit local crimes.
2009 applications due: April 15, 2009
For more information about the August Vollmer Excellence in Forensic Science Award, visit the awards section of the IACP Web site, www.theiacp.org, or contact Aviva Kurash, staff liaison, at the IACP, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2357; by phone at 1-800-THE-IACP, extension 809; or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award
The IACP Research Advisory Committee (RAC) has established a yearly research award to be given to a law enforcement agency for research performed either with a partner or exclusively by the agency. The purpose of the award is to promote innovative research in policing.
The Port Saint Lucie, Florida, Police Department developed the Integrated Model of Problem Solving, Analysis, and Accountability to institutionalize crime analysis and problem solving at all levels of a particular agency. The Port Saint Lucie Police Department was chosen as the winning agency for demonstrating uniqueness in its research and in partnering with Florida Atlantic University. The agency was able to show through its submission that its research findings brought changes to agency problem-solving, analysis, and accountability structures that have facilitated the routinization of crime prevention and crime reduction activities.
2009 applications due: June 30, 2009
For more information about the Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award, visit the awards section of the IACP Web site, www.theiacp.org, or contact Eleni Trahilis at the IACP, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2357; by phone at 1-800-THE-IACP, extension 392; or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IACP/LogIn Excellence in Victim Services Award
The Excellence in Victim Services Award honors three law enforcement agencies that have demonstrated exemplary efforts in providing innovative service to victims of crime. It recognizes agencies, based on size, that use best practices such as effective partnerships, training methods, and performance monitoring tools that place victims at the center of their problem-solving efforts. Submissions are judged by a panel, and the awards are presented at the IACP/LogIn Excellence in Victim Services Award luncheon, which is held during the annual IACP conference.
Smaller Agency Award: Mundelein, Illinois, Police Department
The Mundelein Police Department was selected as a smaller-sized agency pilot site for the IACP’s Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Victims project and established an agency-wide effort that contributed to development of the project’s Strategy Package. Through the department’s strategy implementation efforts, measurable, positive change was effected in the department’s response to all victims of all crimes within the community.
Medium Agency Award: Beaverton, Oregon, Police Department
The Beaverton Police Department was selected as a medium-sized agency pilot site for the IACP’s Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Victims project and established an agency-wide effort that contributed to development of the project’s Strategy Package. Through the department’s strategy implementation efforts, measurable, positive change was effected in the department’s response to all victims of all crimes within the community.
Large Agency Award: Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, Sheriff’s Office
In the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, victim services are part of an agency-wide philosophy where victims are a top priority. “Whatever It Takes” is the agency’s motto, and the agency’s officers strive to provide a seamless, comprehensive victim services program. Through its efforts, it has had a significant positive impact in the lives of victims and the community.
2009 applications due: April 6, 2009
For more information about the IACP/LogIn Excellence in Victim Services Award, visit the awards section of the IACP Web site, www.theiacp.org, or contact project manager Suzanne Jordan at the IACP, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2357; by phone at 1-800-THE-IACP, extension 803; or via e-mail at email@example.com.
IACP-iXP Excellence in Technology Awards
The IACP-iXP Excellence in Technology Awards program recognizes law enforcement agencies’ achievements in the field of communications and information technology. The program is an international competition open to all local, tribal, state, provincial, and multijurisdictional law enforcement agencies. Specifically, awards recognize excellence in law enforcement communications and interoperability, innovation in information technology, and response to computer-related crime.
Excellence in Law Enforcement Communications and Interoperability
Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group, Canadian Police Research Centre
The Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG) has emerged as the unified voice for first responder interoperability in Canada. CITIG was formalized in early 2007 under the auspices of the Canadian Police Research Centre, when the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police joined forces with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada to improve public safety interoperability in Canada. In short, CITIG brings together representatives from public safety, industry, academia, and government to help shape the direction of research and development activities related to interoperability among Canadian public safety providers.
Johns Hopkins University Campus Safety and Security Homewood Communications Center, Johns Hopkins University Campus Safety and Security, Baltimore, Maryland
The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Homewood Communications Center is a fully staffed emergency dispatch call center designed and constructed to provide maximum communication and data sharing among the University Campus Safety and Security Department, the Baltimore Police Department, and the Baltimore City Fire Department. State-of-the-art computerized communications equipment allows for direct communication between the JHU radio frequencies and those used by both the police and fire departments. Operational integration between the various systems allows for the timely exchange of information gathered from the computer-aided dispatching, the records management system, and the comprehensive video analytic CCTV system in use at the university.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Police Department
The Oklahoma City Police Department has deployed a state-of-the-art wireless communications system that supports the latest technology in computer-aided dispatch, in-field reporting systems, records management, GPS tracking systems, Web-based crime databases, mapping systems, and video monitoring. The system’s ability to respond to the police department’s needs is allowing the department to reduce overall system expense while improving its capabilities.
San Diego Regional Public Safety, San Diego Regional Command and Control Communications (3Cs) Program
3Cs is a regional program tasked with designing and building a data network with secure direct links to public safety agencies across southern California. Built to facilitate interagency collaboration during large-scale critical incidents, the network also serves as a valuable tool during day-to-day operations. By connecting agencies, at all levels of government, working in the region, this program provides a single consolidated solution for communication between first responders, senior officials, and emergency operations/dispatch centers across a broad area, including and beyond the San Diego region.
Innovation in Information Technology
Elk River Police Department Paperless Implementation Project, Elk River, Minnesota, Police Department
In 2007, the Elk River Police Department implemented a new records management process through the Law Enforcement Technology Group. This Web-based product provided a complete paperless records system, including generating incident reports in the squad car, clerical verification and case management processing, and bar-coded evidence handling. Implementation has resolved a three-month backlog of data and has removed numerous areas of redundant data entry at the local, county, and state levels; has reduced the staff time needed to maintain its records system; and has provided real-time data entry. The paperless implementation has reduced annual agency operating costs by $15,000.
Oklahoma Law Enforcement Information Exchange, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has developed the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Exchange (OKLeX), a law enforcement information sharing portal, to house and provide access to a criminal justice information index to support local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and to complement the larger information-sharing initiative in the state called Project OASIS. The OKLeX portal hosts state agency data and provides a centralized system to query and locate information on persons, vehicles, or items in a much more efficient manner.
PDA-Alert, Dutch Police, National Police, and County Groningen
Together with the Dutch national information and communications technology (ICT) organization called VTS-PN, the county of Groningen, the Netherlands, has developed a location-based service called PDA-Alert that provides operational information to police officers on the beat related to their positions and their roles.
Through this service, officers are provided with a personal digital assistant (PDA) with global positioning satellite (GPS) technology, a client application, and a continuous connection (GPRS/UMTS/HSDPA) with the police network. At the central ICT organization, a server application is installed, connected with a database of automatically replicated operational incidents. The client application on the PDA sends out a continuous stream of GPS positions to the server. These positions are matched with the positions of the geo-coded incidents in the server. If there is a match within 20 meters of the incident, the police officer will be alerted by the PDA. Any actions taken can be entered into the system, and an automatic e-mail will be generated, capturing those actions taken.
IDENT/IAFIS Interoperability Project, Boston, Massachusetts, Police Department
The IDENT/IAFIS Interoperability Project was designed to provide interoperability between two of the largest computerized fingerprint systems in the world, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security IDENT (Automated Biometric Identification) system and the U.S. Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation’s IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification) system. This project, first piloted in Boston, Massachusetts, allows law enforcement agencies by means of a biometric (in this case, fingerprints) to have timely access to information contained in both fingerprint systems while the prisoner is still in custody. This biometric-supported information can then be shared with the district attorney’s office and the courts.
Response to Computer-Related Crime: Los Angeles, California, Police Department
Los Angeles Regional Internet Crimes against Children Task Force
The Los Angeles Police Department is the lead agency of the Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Regional Task Force. The ICAC task force investigates crimes involving the use of the Internet to victimize children via the production and/or sharing of child pornography sites, pictures, and videos. They also investigate the exploitation of children by Internet predators who entice and meet juvenile victims for purposes of sexual abuse.
For more information about the IACP-iXP Excellence in Technology Award, visit the awards section on the IACP Web site, www.theiacp.org, or contact Heather Ruzbasan Cotter at the IACP, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2357; by phone at 1-800-THE-IACP, extension 315; or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking Beyond the License Plate Award
The Looking Beyond the License Plate Award recognizes the vital role that license plates play in solving serious, nontraffic crimes. The Highway Safety Committee, in partnership with 3M’s Traffic Safety Systems Division, selects the law enforcement officer who demonstrates the most initiative in solving a serious crime via this vital, cost-effective, and readily identifiable tool—the display of which is mandated in every U.S. state and Canadian province. Information pertaining to license plates is virtually instantly accessible to police officers employing current technologies.
While off duty on October 24, 2007, Corporal Daniel R. Melanson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police observed in Campbellton, New Brunswick, a full-size van with a questionable rear-window tint job. Although the driver was not violating any law and the van had not been reported stolen, Corporal Melanson apprised other officers of his observation and of the vehicle’s registration number. Officers Nelson Levesque and Stéphane Gagnon observed the vehicle on October 25, 2007, and attempted to stop it. The vehicle attempted to elude the Mounties, and the driver fled on foot before being apprehended. The driver was Richard Lee McNair, a three-time escapee from the United States who had been serving three life sentences for murder and burglary in North Dakota, who was one the U.S. Marshals’ 15 Most Wanted Fugitives, and who had been featured on America’s Most Wanted.
2009 applications due: May 31, 2009
For more information about the 2009 Looking Beyond the License Plate Program, visit the awards section on the IACP Web site, www.theiacp.org, or contact Dick Ashton at the IACP, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2357; by phone at 1-800-THE-IACP, extension 276; or via e-mail at email@example.com.
From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVI, no. 1, January 2009. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.