The Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office formed a joint forensic laboratory at the time the Police Operations Center first opened in 1993. Located at 705 S. Nevada Ave., it is responsible for processing scenes of violent and other serious crimes.
The lab's responsibilities and goals include providing impartial and professional collection, documentation, evaluation and analysis of a variety of physical evidences.
The Forensic Chemists, Firearms Examiners, Crime Scene Investigators, Latent Fingerprint Analysts, and DNA Analysts provide analysis and expert courtroom testimony for a variety of forensic disciplines.
Each of the Crime Scene Investigators, Chemists, DNA Analysts, Latent Fingerprint Analysts and Firearms Examiners are regularly subpoenaed to testify about his or her work pertaining to the cases they work. When appearing in court, they must establish expertise in their particular discipline prior to offering opinion testimony.
Safety, staffing, technology and training are some of the prominent issues that are regularly addressed by the lab. As a forensic support service unit, the lab frequently provides assistance to the Patrol Bureau, the Investigations Division, the Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Division, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office.
The Metro Forensic Laboratory consists of the following sections:
The Chemistry unit is staffed by two full-time forensic chemists who provide drug analysis and identification to the law enforcement agencies of the city of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and adjacent areas. The unit is capable of identifying a wide range of contraband chemicals, controlled substances and prescription drugs, utilizing instrumentation and techniques like gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, microscopic examination, color tests and thin-layer chromatography.
The chemists routinely receive trainings in order to maintain their knowledge on development of forensic technologies and trends of emerging recreational substances such as designer drugs and synthetic cannabis.
Crime Scene Investigations
The Crime Scene Investigations section, consisting of five full-time Crime Scene Investigators, is responsible for responding to and processing crime scenes involving serious criminal offenses. The Crime Scene Investigations section provides a wide variety of services, including the following professional services:
- Crime scene response
- Scene photography and 3-D scanning
- Scene diagrams
- Documentation, collection, packaging and preservation of evidence
- Bullet flight path and trajectory analysis
- Processing for latent fingerprint evidence
- Identification and collection of trace evidence to include: hairs, fibers and DNA
- Bloodstain pattern analysis
- Crime scene reconstruction
- Footwear and tire impression analysis and casting
- Photo management and inventory
- Departmental training (including new recruit training at CSPD and EPSO academies)
- Community education and presentations
The DNA Laboratory became an ISO 17025 accredited area of the Metro Crime Laboratory in 2008. At this time, the DNA Unit performs forensic testing of evidence on primarily sexual assault and homicide cases. Cases requiring forensic Serological Examination and/or DNA testing outside of this focus area are recommended for submittal to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Forensic Pueblo Laboratory.
Forensic serological examination is used to determine the presence or absence of biological material on evidence (hairs, skin cells, and/or a body fluid) and its suitability for DNA testing. This examination may use an alternative light source as shown and/or presumptive chemical testing. A portion of the evidence is then sampled for DNA testing.
Forensic DNA analysis further assists in determining who may have left the biological evidence. DNA profiles are routinely developed from blood, semen, saliva, and contact- or trace-DNA swabs. The DNA profile from the evidence is then compared to a DNA standard or known profile of an individual thought to be associated in a case.
The DNA Laboratory also contributes to and is able to search profiles within CODIS, an FBI-managed DNA database.
The firearms examiners are responsible for the examination of weapons, bullets, cartridges, magazines and shell casings. Many of these items can be microscopically compared to determine their relationship to each other and to the case in question. In appropriate cases, information from these items can be entered into a national database in order to learn whether the weapon might also have been used in other cases, or in other jurisdictions.
The firearms examiners also may be called upon to complete serial number restorations, functionality testing, trajectory determination, and distance to target analysis. The firearms examiners are also responsible for the acquisition, inventory and maintenance of a weapon reference library.
Latent Fingerprint Examinations
The Latent Fingerprint Section Consists of two full-time and two part-time examiners. They are responsible for evaluating and comparing latent prints that are recovered from crime scenes. If the latent print has sufficient detail for comparison, the examiner can determine if it is a match to a known individual. It can also be determined that it is an elimination, in that it does not match a particular individual. The duties of the Latent Fingerprint Section include the following:
- Evaluate all Latent Prints that are recovered as evidence
- Submit unknown Latent Prints into AFIS / IAFIS
- Forensic identifications of deceased individuals
- Selective crime scene response for Latent Print processing
- Process items for Latent Prints in the lab
- Documentation of analysis for each Latent Print case
- Maintain Fingerprint Card, Palm-Print Card and Latent Print Card files
- Provide training to Police Recruits
- Provide expert testimony in State / Federal Courts