The new Unified Forensic Crime Lab, located on Double Helix Court in Douglas County. Double helix refers to the structure of a DNA molecule.
BY BECKY OSTERWALD
After the evidence is tested, technicians can work on reports in the 3,669 square foot office space with 36 workstations, including fingerprint analysis. Fingerprints are compared to the other databases for matches.
It’s been three years in the making, but the Unified Forensic Lab is finally open for business and a tour was given to the press Sept. 27 and began accepting evidence this week.
It started in January 2015 when Tony Spurlock, Douglas County Sheriff (DCSO), began discussions with the Aurora Police, the Arapahoe County Sheriff and the 18th Judicial District to combine forces or a new crime lab.
The final building, south of Centennial Airport in the Meridian Industrial Park, cost $13.7 million is 26,500 square feet with the ability to add on as needed.
Among the test that can be performed include DNA analysis, chemistry, fingerprint and document examination, and firearms.
The 31 employees will be combined from current employees from all three departments.
The addition of the crime lab will speed up analysis for the local law enforcement agencies. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is currently used by all law enforcement in the state. The new lab will allow all three agencies to get evidence tested faster because there won’t be such a backlog like there is with CBI.
According to George Brauchler, 18th judicial district attorney, if there is an important case that needs urgent analysis it can take precedence over other cases. He also said then if there is an important case in one of the other three counties of the 18th Judicial District, the unified forensic lab can also be used by Elbert or Lincoln County.
Douglas County deputy sheriff Steve Johnson said the facility still needs to be DNA certified, which he expects to happen later this year.
While designing the lab, Johnson said the CBI was a great partner. During the design phase, Johnson said CBI was consulted and asked what changes they would make in their facility. Those changes were incorporated in the Unified Forensic Lab.
A collection of weapons for the firearms lab have been collected from the three agencies.
Darla McCarley-Celentano is the technician in the 642 square foot document lab which will be used to examine everything from handwriting to typewriting and printing.
Douglas County Deputy Steve Johnson, explains that when evidence arrives from any one of the three agencies involved in the Unified Forensic Lab, it will be checked into the 692 square foot storage area where it will remain until a technician checks it out to test elsewhere in the building. After tests are complete, the evidence will be returned to the law enforcement agency.
A pistol (below) was prepared for a demonstrated ballistic test firing into a bullet recovery tank. The firearms lab is 1,007 square feet and is equipped with microscopes that allow technicians to compare the rifling marks on bullets.
Melissa Grass, DNA technical leader, performed a sample test for the press in the 1,319 square foot biology/DNA lab. Once this lab is certified, it will allow the three agencies to test DNA faster than the Colorado Bureau of Investigation because of the backlog of cases at the state facility.
In the 1,099 square foot latent print lab, technicians use a fuming chamber to cause fingerprints to become visible on evidence.
The chemistry lab (1,319 square feet) is used to discover what chemicals make up evidence at a crime scene.
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