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Scientific Investigations

Mike Newcombe

Mike Newcombe, Captain

 


 

The mission of Scientific Investigations Division is to provide our law and justice clients with forensic science services that are timely, relevant, and cost-effective

The Scientific Investigations Division (SID) provides laboratory services to all law enforcement agencies in the county of San Bernardino. SID is a full service crime lab consisting of five sections and over 100 staff members. Since 1995 the Scientific Investigations Divisions has been an accredited laboratory through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB).

Job Opportunities at SID and the Sheriff's Department can be found at the San Bernardino County Human Resources Department employment section.

Prior to 1957, law enforcement agencies in San Bernardino County relied on private examiners or the services of the Los Angeles Police or Sheriff’s Labs for forensic services. To improve the availability of these services, Sheriff Frank Bland initiated the creation of a local crime laboratory in 1957. The Department hired Tony Longhetti, a California native and a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley Criminalistics program, to staff this new one-man operation. In August 1957, the new lab received its first case involving the analysis of arson evidence. This was followed shortly thereafter by the submission of possible “marijuana.” In 1982 the Crime Lab and the Identification Section combined to create the Scientific Investigations Bureau. Over the years, the Division staff slowly increased to over 100 employees conducting analysis in multiple forensic disciplines analyzing thousands of cases each month.

From 1957 through 1983, the Crime Laboratory was located in various locations in the County courthouse. In 1983, the Crime Lab moved to its current location occupying a former County flood control laboratory built in the 1960’s. In 1988, a significant expansion was completed at the current site providing a large property warehouse and additional space for the identification and laboratory functions. With demand for services increasing, and space for additional personnel limited in the current facility, the Cal-ID (Fingerprint Identification) section of the Division was relocated to leased space approximately ½ mile from the main laboratory facility in 2003.

The Laboratory is currently working with an architectural firm, lab design firm and a project manager from the County Department of Architecture and Engineering to design a 20,000 square foot annex to be constructed adjacent to the current facility. Construction of the new $17,000,000 building is anticipated to begin in late 2014 with completion in late 2015. The new building will provide state of the art space for the Controlled Substances, Forensic Alcohol, Firearms and Toolmarks and the Crime Scene Investigation Units. Upon completion of the new building, the current facility will be extensively remodeled to meet the needs of the Forensic Biology Unit.



Forensic Biology

The Forensic Biology Unit examines evidence for biological fluids and then analyzes biological samples from crime scene evidence and reference samples from known individuals.  The crime scene and known sample DNA profiles are compared to determine possible sources of the DNA. Crime scene sample profiles may be searched through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database for investigative leads.  Criminalists issue scientific reports on their findings which may provide statistics to assist in the interpretation of the results and testify in court, as necessary. 

Sources of DNA are biological fluids like blood, semen, saliva and touch DNA.  Evidence analyzed includes bloodstains, sexual assault kits, underwear/clothing, weapons, hair roots, cigarette butts, steering wheel swabs, airbags, fingernails, etc.  Our case work is divided into three types:  Major crimes, Sexual Assault crimes and Property crimes.

Chemistry

Forensic Alcohol Unit provides services for the detection, quantification and interpretation of forensic alcohol results to aid the criminal justice system. The blood alcohol section provides accurate and reliable ethanol analysis of blood. Additionally, the breath alcohol program calibrates, maintains and trains all operators on all Evidential Breath Alcohol Testing (EBT) instruments used within San Bernardino County. The team provides scientifically sound expert testimony on the interpretation of alcohol levels and the resulting impairment as it relates to safely operating a motor vehicle.

The Controlled Substances Unit tests unknown powders, pills, plant materials and liquids to determine if they contain any controlled substances, as defined by Federal and California laws. The unit uses a variety of techniques ranging from basic wet chemistry, such as thin layer chromatography to sophisticated instrumentation such as the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS).

The Clandestine Laboratory Investigations Unit responds to clandestine laboratories and provides field and consultation services to law enforcement agencies that encounter clandestine drug laboratories. The members of this specialized unit assist law enforcement agencies in the documentation and processing of clandestine laboratory scenes for evidence of controlled substance manufacturing. In addition, they also analyze clandestine laboratory samples collected from these scenes. The scenes can be very hazardous due to the unknown nature of the chemicals used and what is being manufactured.

The Trace Unit is responsible for examining evidentiary items that are observed and collected by laboratory staff and outside submitting agencies. Trace evidence covers a wide range of analyses: fire debris (arson), gunshot residue, physical matches, shoe and tire impressions, smokeless gunpowder and general trace unknown samples. This unit analyzes evidence items from a variety of crime types; from tampering cases (food and material items) to robberies and homicides. Evidence is analyzed using a variety of instruments and analytical techniques including microscopy. Trace evidence is used to associate victims and suspects with evidentiary items or crime scenes and to identify unknown substances.

Firearms and Toolmark Identification

Analysts in this unit perform examinations of bullets, cartridge cases, firearms, toolmarks, and tools. These examinations involve microscopic comparative analysis to determine if bullets and cartridge cases were fired from or cycled through a known firearm, or if a toolmark was made by a known tool. Other examinations may be performed, such as: firearm function testing, muzzle-to-target distance determination, California Assault Weapon determination, and processing of duty weapons following an officer-involved shooting. In cases where no suspect gun has been recovered, a fired bullet’s general rifling characteristics can be determined (caliber, number/width of lands and grooves, direction of rifling twist) and checked against the Federal Bureau of Investigations General Rifling Characteristics File, generating a list of firearms capable of firing that bullet.

The Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) can be used to acquire images of a fired cartridge case or shotshell and search the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) database for potential associations to other crimes; some international searches are also possible.

Crime Scene Investigations (CSI)

The CSI unit is made up of ten Crime Scene Specialists and two lead Crime Scene Specialists. CSI unit members are on-call 24/7, 365 days a year to respond to homicides, officer involved shootings, and other major crime scenes anywhere in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s jurisdiction. Every year the CSI unit also responds to many requests for assistance with processing major crime scenes from other Law Enforcement agencies within and outside San Bernardino County under mutual aid agreements.

The knowledge, skills and expertise of the CSI unit are broken into two sections, Field Operations and Laboratory Analysis. All Crime Scene Specialists perform casework in both sections.

Field Operations - Crime scene management includes evidence identification, documentation, and collection for all types of evidence whether it is biological, trace, latent or physical evidence. The following techniques can be used in the investigation of a crime scene: general crime scene photography; advanced photographic including time-exposure, macro, aerial, UV/IR, and ALS photography; latent bloodstain search, enhancement; and documentation; clandestine gravesite excavation; bloodstain pattern analysis; and gunshot trajectory analysis.

Latent print enhancement and collection -  Latent prints are found on all types of latent print evidence using all types of chemical, physical and photographic techniques. This section also does restoration of obliterated serial numbers on firearms, vehicles, or other serialized items.

Property & Evidence

The Property Division Unit is a specialty division and is the Alpha and Omega of all evidence collected in the entire county of San Bernardino as well as outside agencies that request the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s assistance. This section is responsible for storing, maintaining and releasing, as well as the disposition of all evidence for the San Bernardino County  Sheriff’s Department and outside agencies, such as, Police Departments, other County Sheriff’s agencies, Highway Patrol agencies, District Attorney’s offices, City and County Fire agencies, Railroad Police  Departments, School Police, FBI agencies, and DOJ agencies.

CAL-ID

The Technology Unit is responsible for the installation and training of mobile identification devices, iris/ mugshot capture cameras, supplying facial recognition, and providing the technical support for CAL-ID. Additionally , they continue to pursue the latest technological advances to enhance our efforts to solve crime. CAL-ID is often sought out to collaborate on pilot programs with the Department. 

The Tenprint Unit is responsible for identifying subjects booked into jail, confirming the booking charges, and processing all AB109 commitments. Casework is related to identifying decedents, DMV cases, real estate fraud, and testifying in all 3 strike cases.

The Latents Unit is responsible for comparing latent prints from an unknown source, found at crime scenes to the prints of known subjects. This is done visually using various forms of magnification, and may include the use of the multiple AFIS databases when no known subject information is available.



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