Recently some board members of Starfish Assignment were treated to a tour of the Columbus Division of Police Forensics Services Center. Following an overview of the facility by manager Angela Farrington, we were treated to a wonderful and very informative tour of the crime laboratory. As we made our way through the laboratory, we were briefed by a subject matter expert (SME) in each of their respective areas of focus followed by a questions and answers session.
Our first stop was the ballistics lab, where our SME explained how they analyzed spent bullet cartridges. The next area that we visited was latent fingerprinting where we were briefed on the multiple variations of a human fingerprint. We then talked to the handwriting analysis SME (yes, handwriting – even though fewer people write anymore) and even had a chance to practice analyzing a real life example of a handwritten note used in a crime.
We then visited the drug analysis portion of the lab and had a lively discussion about drugs and medical marijuana. Our final stop was the DNA analysis area of the lab where we learned that even though identical twins had the exact DNA markings, they did not share the same fingerprints.
While each area of the laboratory was unique, the common theme we observed was the passion that our SMEs had for what they do. Many of the tasks were done in solitude and there were multiple levels of redundancy to prevent evidence contamination. During our tour, we learned that forensics on television and real-life analysis are significantly different. As an example, to just break down DNA samples to usable and readable materials can take as long as 48 hours (unlike the 45 minutes on television to solve a case).
We had a wonderful tour and thank our Columbus Police partners for this opportunity!