The Austin Police Department Forensic Science Division is a nationally accredited forensic laboratory, established to provide forensic laboratory services to the citizens of Austin. The Division also provides services to other law enforcement agencies through inter-local agreements to the extent its resources allow. Staff provides technical assistance, evaluates and collects evidence at crime scenes, evaluates and analyzes evidence, interprets results, and provides expert testimony related to the evaluation and analyses of physical evidence.
HISTORY OF THE DIVISION
The Forensic Science Division was established in 1972. Since that time the Forensic Science Division has seen major changes in its structure, staff and mission. Initially, the Forensic Science Division began with a small number of people assigned to the Photo-Identification Section, Chemistry Lab and Evidence Room. Today, the Forensic Science Division consists of the Forensic Chemistry Section, Firearms and Toolmark Section, Multimedia Section, Crime Scene Section, Latent Print Section and Polygraph Section.
The Forensic Science Division is managed by and staffed with civilian personnel. In 1996, the Forensic Captain position was civilianized as well as the supervisory position for the Identification Section. These key positions were civilianized through grant funding in an effort to enhance continuity and direction of the Forensic Science Division and to place more sworn officers in positions where they were needed.
In 1972, the Chemistry Lab was established with the hiring of one chemist who helped support the state regulated Breath Alcohol Testing Program and performed limited drug testing. In 1975, the lab increased its drug testing capability by hiring an additional drug chemist. In the mid-1980's, the Chemistry Lab began performing blood alcohol analysis in support of traffic investigations and DWI cases. By 1992, the lab grew to provide analysis of controlled substances and blood alcohol. The Clandestine Lab Response Team was created in 1990 and continues to operate today. This team of chemists and narcotics officers is responsible for dismantling volatile and highly dangerous methamphetamine labs. Today, the section is called the Forensic Chemistry Section to appropriately reflect the type of analysis actually performed.
The Firearm and Toolmark Section was created in 1984, and is responsible for matching fractured items to their source; comparing marks left at a scene with suspect tool; and comparing firearms-related evidence recovered at crime scenes. The Firearm and Toolmark analysts test fire seized firearms and document the results for future reference. The section also manages the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) system, which is an image-based database and national computer network designed and supported by the ATF.
The Multimedia Section provides technical support in areas of photography, film processing, audio and video production, duplication; surveillance photography and videography; computer-generated composite drawings; preparation of photographic line-ups and administrative photography.
The Polygraph Section was established in 1976 and provides polygraph testing in support of APD’s investigative mission. Polygraph examination support is also provided to other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on an as-needed basis. The Polygraph Examiner also supports APD's Recruiting Office by overseeing and conducting pre-employment polygraph examinations.
The Identification Section is the oldest operating forensic science discipline within the Austin Police Department, originating before WWII. In 1977 the Identification section was combined with the Photo Lab. As advancements in fingerprint technology increased, the need to separate the Identification Section developed. In 2002 the Identification Section was separated into the Crime Scene Section and Latent Print Section.
The purpose of the Forensic Science Division is to provide timely, independent, accurate and objective scientific and investigative support to the criminal justice system through forensic analysis.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
The Forensic Science Division is responsible for providing the Austin Police Department, Citizens of Austin and numerous other customers, a high level of forensic science services and support based on quality, timeliness, accuracy, and professional standards.
The objectives of the Forensic Science Division are supported by the following major goals:
• Provide crime scene support
• Provide photographic, video and audio support
• Provide forensic examinations and analyses on evidentiary items
• Provide polygraph support
• Provide timely and accurate reports
• Improve quality assurance
• Enhance scientific capabilities
• Improve cost effectiveness