Forensic Laboratory Section


Forensic Laboratory Section Logo

The Objective of the Forensic Laboratory Section is to provide the Baltimore Police Department and the citizens of Baltimore with the highest quality and most accurate, reliable and efficient forensic scientific support available.

The Forensic Laboratory Section is organized into two separate branches of technical scientific expertise.  The Analytical Sciences Branch houses the Forensic Biology Unit, the Forensic Processing Unit and the Drug Analysis Unit, while the Comparative Sciences Branch houses the Latent Print Unit and the Firearms Analysis Unit.

The Forensic Laboratory Section is managed by a Laboratory Director, with the support of two Deputy Directors.  The Deputy Directors are each assigned one of the scientific branches.  Each laboratory unit has at least on unit supervisor and one technical leader. 

The Laboratory is ISO/IEC 17025 accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board, follows the FBI’s Quality Assurance Standards for DNA Testing, and is licensed and regulated by the Maryland Department of Health.


Acting Director of BPD Forensic Lab Kenneth B. Jones, MS, ABC-MB, CFM-I, PMP: Laboratory Director

The Forensic Laboratory Section is overseen by Director Kenneth Jones. The Director works with the Division Chief, the Laboratory Quality Assurance Manager, and Section Deputy Directors to ensure the laboratory is following stringent accreditation and regulatory requirements while also providing efficient services and support to criminal justice and public safety partners. The laboratory employs numerous technological and quality monitoring techniques and strategies to continually assess and improve laboratory operations.


Analytical Sciences Branch

Deputy Director Jennifer Moran Jennifer Moran, MS, Deputy Director of Analytical Sciences

The Analytical Sciences Branch of the laboratory is comprised of the Drug Analysis Unit, the Forensic Processing Unit and the Forensic Biology Unit.  These units are primarily responsible for the analysis and identification of unknown substances, the development of latent fingerprints, the identification and preservation of biological material, and the development and comparison of DNA profiles. Using a wide variety of instrumental techniques and technology, the analytical sciences branch is able to often provide information to investigators that otherwise would remain unknown.

Presumptive testing utilizing a variety of chemical reactions and instrumental techniques is often used to provide indications of the presence of certain evidence types such as blood, seminal fluid or different drug compounds. Confirmatory testing further identifies a specific substance or biological material or specific drug.  Our Forensic Scientists assist investigators by performing analytical-based testing on collected evidence and provide impartial, scientifically based information about evidence recovered from a crime scene.

Analytical Sciences Branch Units

Drug Analysis Unit

Drug Analyst using an FTIR with an ATR Attachement

Using both presumptive and confirmatory testing methods, the Drug Analysis Unit conducts a variety of testing on unknown powders, liquids, plants and pills in order to determine whether they are illicit controlled dangerous substances. Drug Analysts utilize gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, UV, and Fourier-transform Infrared Spectroscopy instrumentation to confirm the identification of submitted substances.

The drugs most commonly tested and detected included cocaine, fentanyl and heroin. Marijuana is tested on an as needed per request basis.

The Drug Analysis Unit also collaborates with researchers and task forces, providing data analysis of testing results and performing validation services of new methods or techniques to assist in addressing the impacts of drug use and abuse from both a public safety and public health perspective.

Forensic Processing Unit

Forensic Processing Unit

The Forensic Processing Unit (FPU) provides analytical services for the purposes of preserving biological material and latent prints on evidence for further laboratory analysis. Forensic Processing utilizes a variety of both lighting and chemical processing techniques to visualize latent prints. Multiple processing methods are available, some of which may be applied sequentially to further develop latent print detail. Digital Images of developed latent prints are forwarded to the Latent Print Analysis Unit for evaluation, comparison, and database searching. Additionally, the Forensic Processing Unit may also collect and preserve biological material identified on evidence for further testing.




Forensic Biology Unit

DNA Analyst pipetting

The Forensic Biology Unit is comprised of the Forensic Screening Section and the DNA Section. Forensic screening streamlines laboratory workflow using methods for serological testing. A triage model is utilized to identify and apply the best testing methods that will produce the most probative results from evidence.

Analysts identify and prepare biological samples for DNA analysis using methods such as alternative light sources, microscopic analysis and biochemical testing. This allows for the identification of biological material such as blood, semen or skin cells, that may be processed for DNA and link individuals to a crime.

DNA Analysts isolate DNA from samples identified through serological screening, and develop DNA profiles from the samples for comparison. DNA analysis is conducted using the most current Short Tandem Repeat (STR) testing technology. Through the use of robotics systems and advanced data analysis software, analysts are able to interpret samples that scientifically link individuals to crimes.

The DNA Analysis unit of the Baltimore Police Department was also one of the first laboratories in the country to utilize probabilistic genotyping software to analyze and interpret complex DNA mixtures and DNA profiles, providing results for evidence types that previously would have yielded useful results.

The DNA section also participates in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the national FBI DNA database. Eligible DNA profiles from samples are uploaded and searched in the database, often returning matches that provide links previously unknown to investigators, assisting them in solving a variety of case types, including cold cases.

Comparative Sciences Branch

Deputy Director Comparative Sciences Ethan Conway, MS, CLPE: Deputy Director Comparative Sciences Branch

The Forensic Laboratory Section's Comparative Science Branch consists of the Firearms Analysis Unit and the Latent Print Analysis Unit.

Comparative sciences involve the scientific analysis of two components, items or images to determine if they come from a common source or origin. Typically, scientists visually examine evidence such as fingerprints or cartridge casings, and form an opinion on origin after comparison to known exemplars. The Comparative Sciences also utilize a variety of databases, such as AFIS and NIBIN, to assist in the investigation of crimes involving firearms or fingerprint evidence.

Comparative Sciences Branch Units

Firearms Analysis Unit

Firearms Analyst performing a test fire

Firearms identification is primarily the study of microscopic markings appearing on the surfaces of bullet specimens, cartridge cases and shot shells to identify those components as having been fired by a specific firearm.

A Firearms Analyst identifies and examines bullets, bullet fragments, cartridge cases and firearms used in crimes. Analysts also test fire firearms, complete toolmark examinations and restore serial numbers. Comparison microscopes and integrated photography equipment are used to evaluate and compare evidence and document findings.

The Firearms Analysis Unit also utilizes the ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (or NIBIN) to store, search and retrieve digital images of fired cartridge cases throughout the United States.  All cases that have cartridge cases or test fired cartridge cases from semi-automatic firearms are eligible for entry into NIBIN.  When a new cartridge case is entered into the system, it is automatically compared to all cases of similar caliber already in the database.  Once an analyst compares the candidates for potential links that NIBIN supplied, different incidents that may have been committed with the same firearm regardless of location and jurisdiction can be linked creating a "lead."  

Latent Print Unit

Fingerprints as viewed using an alternate light source

Latent prints are unique impressions created by the ridges in human skin from fingers, palms and soles of the feet and left intentionally or by chance on objects at crime scenes. Latent prints can place a perpetrator at the scene of a crime or associate individuals to specific pieces of evidence.

Crime Laboratory Technicians and Laboratory Analysts develop and recover prints by applying special lights, chemicals or high-tech powders to capture the impression. Photography is frequently used to document and preserve print images and impressions, or the print is “lifted” and preserved using tape. These images and lifts are then forwarded to the Latent Print Unit for further evaluation.

Latent Print Analysts use their training and a variety of scientific tools to analyze latent prints recovered from crime scenes or evidence, and then compare them to known subjects. Tools such as Photoshop software allow an Analyst to enhance and process digital images in ways that maximize the print detail. If there is sufficient quality and quantity of detail in agreement between the latent print and a known print, the analyst can conclude that two friction ridge impressions originated from the same source. If the two impressions are not in agreement, conclusions of exclusion or inconclusive may be reached.

Latent prints are also searched in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).  AFIS is the generic term for various local, state and federal databases that store millions of known fingerprint records. Latent prints are entered into the system, details in the latent are marked by the analyst, and the computer then compares the marked latent against records in the database. Within minutes, a list of possible candidates is returned to the analyst to compare against the questioned latent print.