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Fulfilling any justice system’s responsibilities, including law enforcement and criminal prosecution, is a challenging and complex proposition. Now consider the challenge without the ability to fully utilize most of the available forensic science techniques considered fundamental and commonplace in today’s forensic industry. Multiply that challenge across a populous nation of 150 million: the scope becomes monumental.

Facing this challenge head-on, Crime Lab Design was asked to prepare a facility needs assessment for Lagos, Nigeria as part of the country’s focused effort to improve the use of forensic science to support law enforcement, criminal investigation, and the judicial system of Lagos State. This article will briefly discuss our findings and recommendations for the facilities needed to support the effort.

To understand the goals of the effort to improve the use of forensic science, we met with the leadership of the State of Lagos including the ministries of justice, health, science and technology, and the police to hear their expectations for this project and what they would be able to achieve in the future. Consistently the need for a comprehensive forensic resource was described and defined to include a full service forensics program including a crime lab, forensic medicine, and evidence storage divisions.

Recognizing that to implement a comprehensive forensic science program well-trained staff members are needed, an essential component of the project is a conference and training facility along with housing. The training facility will be a place where staff can learn and share forensic knowledge. It will help facilitate the needs to upgrade procedures, improve organizational structures, provide better training, explore best practices in the industry, and achieve certifications and accreditations. It is important that this foundation be in place to enhance the greater forensic science community as it is expected to serve the goals of the justice system.

During our time in Lagos, it quickly became apparent that electrical power outages aren’t just frequent, they are an expected part of the day and that reliable utility services in general are sparse. A visit to the proposed building site reinforced that an on-site utility plant to generate adequate power, cooling, water supply, and treatment of waste water is a must. Anticipated as part of this project is a self-sufficient utility plant, generating power backed-up with diesel generators and solar photovoltaic collectors, cooling from heat recovery sources, water from a series of wells, recovery and use of captured rain water, and a waste treatment facility managing the disposal of liquid effluents.

Image 1: Lagos Facility site plan and blocking.
Click for larger image.

The new site and facility program must also provide for the basic needs of all who work, live, and visit the site. Planning for a 600 seat cafeteria that includes food preparation and storage became essential as did the need for a medical facility staffed with 20 professionals providing urgent care and wellness programs, and finally a security detail of sworn personals to be in place before, during, and after construction providing the necessary level of protection for the facility and its occupants.

The project is such a large scale undertaking by the government, that we looked at and provided them with different scenarios to phase the build-out of the project. One option would be to build-out only half of the forensic facility elements and wait on providing the training facility until a critical mass of staff were present. This would allow all of the forensic functions the ability to grow independently of each other and at their own pace while being responsive to those they serve.

Crime Lab Design provided suggestions on the particulars of the facilities needed in Lagos, Nigeria’s proposed forensic complex, including a crime lab, forensic medicine building, a facility for housing and training, and supporting structures such as a security center and utility plant. The forensic needs assessment described in this article is an important foundational step to support the leadership of Lagos, Nigeria’s plan to invest in forensic science.

Ken Mohr (kenm@crimelabdesign.com) is a Principal and Senior Forensic Planner and Lou Hartman (Louh@crimelabdesign.com) is a Principal and Senior Mechanical Engineer with Crime Lab Design which provides full architectural and engineering services for forensic and medical examiner facilities worldwide.

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