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Forensic Services Bureau
The Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), Forensic Services Bureau (FSB), services the greater unincorporated Dade County area and 35 of the incorporated municipalities which also include the city of Miami and the city of Miami Beach (total population base circa 2.4 million).
The full service laboratory facility contains "state of the art" scientific equipment and employs 65 scientists and support staff. The educational level of the scientists ranges from BS to PhD. The mission of the laboratory is to provide scientific and technical support to the law enforcement community.
The laboratory is comprised of three (3) sections: Analytical, Forensic Biology, and Forensic Identification.
The Analytical Section is responsible for analyzing and identifying illicit, controlled, and legend drug materials that are confiscated in Miami-Dade County (MDC) by local law enforcement officers and federal agents operating within MDC. Additionally, the Analytical Section is tasked with developing methods to identify emerging drugs, including synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts.
Controlled and illicit substances are those substances designated by the legislature of the State of Florida in the Florida State Substantive Laws, Chapter 893. Legend drugs are those substances that according to state and federal law require a prescription. In all drug cases, it is the primary objective of the criminalist to conclusively identify any drug substances in a sample.
The number of drug case submissions is greater than all other types of evidence submitted to the crime laboratory for analysis, averaging almost 650 case submissions per month. The analysis of all drug submissions must be completed within 21 days of the arrest and confiscation of the drug material.
The Analytical Section is also responsible for the examination, analysis and comparison of miscellaneous materials that may be transferred during the commission of a crime. Comparison of these materials can show an association between an individual and a crime scene. Examples of types of trace evidence that can be identified and compared include fibers, hairs, glass fragments, paint chips and smears, and a wide variety of miscellaneous materials. Trace evidence can also be used to establish the elements of a crime by identifying certain materials, such as gunshot residues on the hands of individuals suspected of firing a gun, or ignitable liquid residues found at the scene of a suspected arson.
Analysts in the Analytical Section undergo a rigorous training program ranging from six months to two years depending upon the discipline. The Drug Chemistry training program consists of lectures, individual reading, drug laws, observations, hands on instrumentation, competency testing, supervised casework and court testimony preparation. The Trace Analysis training program includes lectures, preservation of trace evidence, instrumental analysis, report writing, and court testimony preparation. Both training programs measure learning using competency/written examinations, practical analytical exercises, supervised casework, and a mock trial or mock deposition.
The following websites offer additional information on the testing performed by this section:
Forensic Biology Section
The Forensic Biology Section (FBS) examines biological materials associated with various types of criminal investigations collected from crime scenes in Miami-Dade County.
The FBS is currently staffed with 18 scientists and support staff. The scientists assigned to this Section identify the type of biological material present, when appropriate, as well as conduct DNA analysis. Over 2,100 homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and property crime cases are processed by the FBS each year. In addition, the FBS has made over 5,152 DNA matches since 1990 through the use of the DNA database, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
Analysts must complete a training program what includes lectures, laboratory exercises, and court testimony preparation to qualify them as expert witnesses in both serology and DNA testing. Learning is measured using practical exercises, written examinations and the successful completion of at least one mock trial. Identification of blood, semen and saliva is accomplished with presumptive and confirmatory chemical tests, and Short Tandem Repeat (STR) DNA profiles are generated for evidence and standards then compared. Notable success has been obtained from property crime testing that has led to perpetrator identification in 30% of the unsolved cases searched in CODIS.
The FBS also works with the Crime Scene Investigative Support Section to analyze and interpret bloodstain patterns at complicated crime scenes, and used Department facilities to conduct training in this specialty field for investigators from MDPD and from police departments worldwide.
The following websites offer additional information on DNA testing:
This comprehensive Short Tandem Repeat database for genetic mapping and identity testing, maintained by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, provides a wealth of information regarding the biology and analysis of DNA by STR methods.
Forensic Identification Section
The Forensic Identification Section is comprised of three (3) distinct units. The Central Evidence Reception Facility (CERF) is responsible for the intake, tracking and safe keeping of all the evidence that enters into the Crime Laboratory. The Firearms Testing Unit is responsible for test firing and computer entry of all routine auto-loading firearms impounded by the MDPD and other municipalities into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). The Firearm and Toolmark Unit analyzes various firearm and ballistic evidence in order to identify which firearms were involved in a shooting, as well as identify same gun evidence. This Unit also performs serial number restorations, shooting distance determinations, toolmark analysis and shoe and tire track impression analysis. The Firearm and Toolmark Unit houses an exceptional firearms reference collection with over 3,000 weapons.
Both the NIBIN Firearms Testing Unit and the Firearm and Toolmark Unit participate in NIBIN, a computer imaging system owned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, that allows the firearm and toolmark examiner to link shooting cases. Every auto-loading firearm confiscated in Miami-Dade County is test fired and searched against all of the images in the NIBIN system.
The Firearm and Toolmark Examiner Trainee undergoes an intensive two-year training program designed to provide the background to become a court qualified Firearm and Toolmark examiner. This training will enable the trainee to make determinations and give court testimony concerning physical evidence related to forensic investigations involving firearms and toolmarks. This training consists of reading selected literature, formal lectures, attendance at training seminars, related factory visits, research, observation, supervised completion of actual casework with critical review, and visitation to other laboratories to compare methodology and instrument. Learning is measured using practical exercises, written examinations and the successful completion of at least one mock trial.
For an introduction to Forensic Firearm Identification and to perform virtual comparisons, click on this link: http://www.firearmsid.com/
Fingerprint Identification Section
The Fingerprint Identification Section (FIS) is comprised of the Master File Unit, Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) Unit, and Latent Unit. The FIS has both Latent Fingerprint Examiners and Fingerprint Analysts on-duty 7 days a week. Fingerprint Analysts are primarily responsible for the comparison of known-to–known prints from individuals who have been arrested, using current technology and traditional examination procedures. Latent Fingerprint Examiners are responsible for comparing unknown-to-known prints that are recovered from crime scenes and develop latent fingerprints using various evidence processing techniques. Additionally, Fingerprint Analysts and Latent Fingerprint Examiners provide expert testimony in courts of law regarding fingerprint examinations.
Master File Unit
The Master File Unit is staffed by Fingerprint Analysts who are responsible for classifying, searching, analyzing, comparing, and evaluating fingerprints. Analysts use the AFIS and compare fingerprints from jail bookings that are submitted by the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department to determine identification. Assistance is also provided to the Medical Examiner Department and to assist public citizens whose identity has been compromised and are the victims of identity theft.
The AFIS Unit is responsible for maintaining the biometric portion of the Fingerprint Identification Section. The AFIS database contains more than 1,748,000 tenprint records, 970,000 palm print records, and 229,000 latent fingerprint records. In 2014, there were over 900 latent identifications made using the AFIS.
The Latent Unit
The Latent Unit is responsible for evaluating and comparing physical evidence submitted from crime scenes. Latent Print Examiners assigned to the Unit frequently use mechanical, chemical, and forensic light source methods to develop and visualize latent prints from crime scene evidence.
Property and Evidence Section
The Mission of the Property and Evidence Section (PES) is to accept, catalogue, safeguard, store, and produce evidence as required for court, as well as return to owner or otherwise legally dispose of property and evidence impounded into the custody of the Miami-Dade Police Department. The Section’s main facility is a 50,000 square foot secure warehouse, which houses over 700,000 items. In addition, the Section operates a remote vehicle storage lot and an off-site overflow facility. The PES also manages the Miami-Dade County Towing and Storage of Towed or Impounded Vehicles contract.
Approximately 75% of all property taken into custody is evidence required for criminal cases. The rest of the property impounded includes found property, decedent’s property, property no longer needed as evidence, contraband, and property seized for forfeitures. Property received at the PES also includes cash, jewelry, firearms, narcotics, and general property.
All property coming into and leaving the PES is subject to strict chain of custody constraints. Property that can be legally returned to its rightful owner is done so in accordance with Florida Statutes. Contraband is destroyed when it is no longer needed for a criminal case. Unclaimed general property and vehicles are disposed of through public auctions, disposed of according to Florida Statute, or retained for forfeiture.
You must have a valid personal, government issued, photo identification for property to be released. The PES is open to the public Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Appointments are strongly recommended because it may take up to 60 minutes to process a release. The PES is closed on all county holidays and weekends.Back to Top Page Last Edited: Tue Apr 14, 2015 7:52:12 AM
Crime Lab Resources
- Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE)
- International Association for Property and Evidence (IAPE)
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Integrated Ballistic Network
- What to do in case of a Residential Burglary Español - Kreyòl
- What to do in case of a Commercial Burglary Español - Kreyòl
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