The importance of a proper and effective approach to processing a crime scene should never be taken for granted.
Over the past two decades in the field of ever-changing technology the most significant advances have been introduced into the analytical (laboratory examination of physical evidence) fields. It is important for the crime scene investigator or evidence recovery technician to be well read and keep abreast of these ever-changing techniques and methods in technology. We have to be aware and prepared to answer to the challenge.
What the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) has done for fingerprint identification, The National Firearms and Projectile Database (DRUGFIRE) is doing for firearms identification, and now The Combined DNA Index Systems (CODIS) is having a dramatic influence on the comparison of blood and other tissue identification. The old standard serological testing labs are giving way to the new modern Forensic Biology section.
Until recently the issues of scrutiny and challenge in DNA technology was the laboratory analysis procedures. However that is about to change dramatically with a national standardization system in place. The sensitivity of this new exciting technology will pivot the focus and attention more to the on scene physical evidence collection and recovery methods and procedures. That is where we the crime scene investigators and evidence recovery technicians have to be prepared to step up and tone our basic skills and knowledge to assure that we do everything possible to be a successful link in the investigation process.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation entitled "The Next Generation". The presentation dealt with the most recent advances in DNA technology. This exciting state-of-the-art technology is described as Short Tandem Repeats (STR's). The following information came from that presentation.
We will still be doing the same functions as before. We just now have been made aware of the sensitivity this new procedure will bring to the field and the precautions that we will have to take in order to properly document, handle, collect and preserve items of evidence. Our attention will need to focused on quality control and quality assurance.
As with any other duties in crime scene work, safety is always a priority. The appropriate protective equipment and procedures effecting self contamination should be observed. The investigator/technician should avoid any direct contact with the evidence. No eating or drinking should occur on the scene.
Some of the contaminates that will effect the DNA typing process are dirt, grease, and even some fabric dyes.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced that samples collected from air crash victim's of Swissair flight 111, in Nova Scotia, DNA patterns representing 142 people (75 males, 67 females) have been established. The RCMP demonstrated that forensic DNA analysis is an effective tool for disaster identification and in some cases may be the only source of identification.
Mike Byrd (1955-2005) joined the Miami-Dade County Police Department in 1983 and started with the Crime Scene Investigations Bureau in 1987. He took an exceptionally active part in the science of forensic crime scene investigations, including development of new techniques, publishing methodology of crime scene procedures, and teaching. Mike developed new techniques for gathering and cataloging crime scene evidence including the lifting of fingerprints, vehicle tire impressions, and footwear impressions.
Mike's methods and analysis withstood the scrutiny of the criminal justice process. He published more than thirty crime scene articles on crime scene evidence collection and for the International Association for Identification and was awarded The Good of the Association Award in 2002 for his innovative identification methodology and techniques. He taught crime scene investigation procedures and techniques at police departments around the country and took great pride at instructing smaller Florida police departments in the latest techniques in evidence gathering.
Mike performed the tough detailed oriented forensic work at many major crime scenes and disasters over two-decades. He gathered, processed, and identified the DNA evidence used to convict the Tamiami Strangler for a string of heinous murders in 1994. His thoughtful gathering of evidence at the Valujet crash allowed families to reach closure for the deaths of loved ones.
Mike Byrd died after a more than two year battle with multiple myeloma cancer. Annually, the Police Officer Assistance Trust awards the Mike Byrd Crime Scene Investigation Scholarship in his honor.
Article submitted by the author
Article posted October 29, 1999