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Crime Laboratory Section

DNA Analysis

DNA analysis, using outside vendors, began in 1987, completely replacing conventional serology in 1996. In 1999, the Crime Laboratory received a grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) for a DNA facility using RFLP (Restriction Fraction Length Polymorphism) technology to be housed in the newly renovated 10th floor of the Headquarters building. Staying abreast of current technology, DNA analysis uses Short Tandem Repeats (STR) technology and is exploring Next Generation Sequencing (NGR). As of mid-2014, the DNA laboratory has achieved over 900 DNA hits from CODIS, including many cold case hits and case linkages previously unknown to investigators. The unit uses robotics to be one of the most efficient DNA units in Maryland.

Drug Analysis

The Drug Analysis Unit identifies controlled dangerous substances, such as cocaine and heroin, and utilizes Gas Chromatographs, Gas Chromatograph/ Mass Spectrometry, UV, and FTIR instruments in its analyses. It is the most productive drug analysis unit in Maryland as of 2014.

Latent Print Examination

The Latent Print Examination Unit processes evidence for latent prints and compares and identifies the resultant prints. The unit began the use of Printrak in 1984, which enabled the Department to use computerized fingerprint searches to identify potential latent print identification for the examiners. With new and improved capabilities, this system was replaced in 1991 with Morpho and again in 2009 with the COGENT system. In 1988, the Latent Print Unit and the Mobile Unit began using lasers for the identification of latent fingerprints and body fluids at crime scenes and on evidence. The Latent Print Examination Unit is one of the most productive units in the United States, has employed only professionally certified latent print examiners (International Association for Identification) for decades, and by far is the most effective latent print unit in Maryland.

Trace Analysis

The Trace Analysis Unit performs analyses of gunshot residue, flammable substances, low explosives, glass, and physical matches. In doing so, it employs a wide range of analytical equipment such as scanning electron microscopy, comparison microscopy, Glass Refractive Index Measurement (GRIM), microspectrophotometry, and FTIR. Trace analysis is one of the most challenging and broadest disciplines with numerous subsets of testing that require years of training to establish competency.

Firearms Examination

The Firearms Unit identifies and compares firearms evidence (i.e., expended cartridge casings and projectiles), performs serial number restoration, completes toolmark examinations, and evaluates distance determinations. The unit obtained Drugfire in 1991, which allowed firearms examiners to store thousands of images of fired cartridge cases for comparison at a computer station. Its bullet counterpart, Bulletproof, was obtained in 1997. Continued improvements to this technology lead to the replacement of this unit with the ATF system of IBIS (Integrated Ballistic Identification System) in 2002.

Questioned Document Examination

The Questioned Documents (QD) Unit examines and compares various document types as well as shoe and tire-print impressions. The majority of QD work is handwriting comparisons. The QD Unit employs various technologies including microscopy, Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA), Solemate, and Treadmate. The senior examiner in the Questioned Document Unit has over 40 years of experience and is recognized as one of the best examiners in the United States.

Forensic Facial Imaging

The most recent discipline added to the Crime Laboratory is Forensic Facial Imaging, in which the Baltimore Police Department is lucky to employ one of the most preeminent forensic artists in the United States. The forensic artist conducts cognitive interviews, draws composite sketches, and performs facial reconstructions and age progressions.

The unit is making the transition from traditional techniques and structure of a “sketch unit” to a technically and technology-enhanced unit with biometric capacity. It is one of the most productive and effective units of its kind in the United States.


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