Our next three articles will present case studies of international projects by Crime Lab Design. These stories are being shared to help you become aware of the issues facing three different facilities in different parts of the world. These articles will explain the projects in detail showcasing their individual challenges and our suggestions for overcoming them. The first case study will be of a crime lab in South America; with renovations and additions to existing facilities. The second case study will be of a crime lab in northern Africa; with a renovation of a building into a state-of-the art crime lab. The third case study will be of the forensic science institute in western Africa. The institute will include a new forensic lab, a forensic medicine facility, conference and housing, a training facility, and also the infrastructure (power plant, etc.) to support the new site.
Our role in these projects is to provide a professional opinion on the design and layout of the laboratories and engineering support for those spaces. By the time the forensic lab engages with the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITA), part of the U.S. Department of Justice, and then with CLD; the facility is partly or mostly designed. The U.S. government is investing dollars to promote good forensic science: training, equipment, and facilities. We provide a professional opinion on whether the design and layout of the facility and labs support good lab practices which can allow for and hopefully enhance good forensic science.
The International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) of the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), through Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI) contracted Crime Lab Design to conduct an on-site review of a recently partially remodeled lab in South America. The following issues were identified and documented:
- Safety in the laboratory.
- Adequacy and compatibility of existing laboratory bench top surface materials.
- Security in the laboratory.
- Mechanical, Engineering, Plumbing, and Fire Protection infrastructure in the laboratory.
- Evidence storage and security in the laboratory.
- Efficiency in the laboratory.
- Flow of evidence, staff, public, and materials/supplies/waste in and out of the laboratory.
All of these issues are in reference to and designed to support the laboratory’s goals in obtaining International Organization for Standardization (ISO) accreditation.
Our approach to this assignment began with the collection of available data related to the existing building and discussions with the former lab director of the facility and ICITAP senior advisory staff. On-site activities included an introductory meeting with laboratory leadership, key section leaders of the laboratory, and other concerned stakeholders to both review the planned activities and to learn from them the issues, concerns, and plans that were in development.
Following the introductory meeting an overall tour of the building was conducted, during which issues were noted and documented. Interviews were then conducted with individual Departments including: Ballistics, Questioned Documents, Fingerprints and Human Identification, Accident Reconstruction,Voice and Photography, Accounting and Management Audit, Digital Forensics, and the Topography, Planimetry, Architecture and Engineering departments. All were toured and when possible detailed discussions with the technical staff were conducted.