Dorset Police Scientific Support Department encompasses a variety of services that aid the investigator. During the past two decades the majority of the services that have been introduced and used on a daily basis were only available from outside of the Dorset Police and are now routinely accepted and used throughout the police service.
The Scientific Support Department is coordinated and managed by the Head of Scientific Investigations from Force Headquarters, Winfrith, and includes the Crime Scene Investigation Unit, the Fingerprint Bureau, the Forensic Laboratory, and the Photographic and Video Units.
Historically the CSI Unit was jointly operated from two locations, the old Dorchester Police Station, and the Bournemouth Borough Constabulary Headquarters. Subsequent reviews have seen the bringing together of all the latest processes and resources into purpose-built accommodation at Ferndown, serving the eastern conurbation, and Weymouth for the west of the county. There are also satellite offices at Poole and Bournemouth.
The examiners are trained to recover fingerprint evidence at crime scenes, using various techniques either by way of conventional powder treatments or through chemical treatment processes. They are also trained to recover forensic trace evidence such as glass, fibres, paint, and crime stains that may have DNA material left at scenes by suspects. Footwear evidence is also an increasingly important issue at crime scenes and there are various techniques available to the examiners to enable them to recover detailed shoe pattern evidence. Another aspect of the examiner's field of expertise is the taking of technical photographs to accurately depict a scene, evidence or injuries to a victim or suspect, or road traffic collisions.
Dorset Police is the customer for various outside agencies and we regularly submit forensic casework evidence to forensic science laboratories, to provide evidence for court of a suspected person's involvement with a crime or crime scene.
Structure and Training
Police (support) staff officers receive expert training as Crime Scene Investigators at the National Training Centre for Scientific Support, and are now replacing the positions traditionally held by police officers. The training period for examiners covers a two year programme during which they are enrolled to undertake the National Diploma in Scientific Support.
The department now includes the newly formed High Tech Crime Unit (HTCU), formed and funded as a result of an initiative by the Home Office. The officers posted to the Unit will seize and examine computers to assist in the investigation of computer- related crime.
The Fingerprint Bureau has also been involved in the relocation from the Force Headquarters, Winfrith to the new Eastern Divisional Headquarters.
Automated fingerprint recovery systems are now available to the police service, and Dorset Police is linked into the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS), which enables each police force to search throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland for the fingerprints records of convicted persons.
NAFIS went live in Dorset Police in March 2001 and new fingerprint-taking technology (Livescan) has now been introduced at the main custody suites. Livescan enables the fingerprints of people charged or reported to be taken and passed electronically to NAFIS thereby resulting in a much quicker search of the database and response back to the investigator.
Force Forensic Laboratory
The Force Forensic Laboratory was also relocated at the same time as the Fingerprint Bureau into the new Eastern Division Headquarters. The Laboratory Support Staff are also trained at the National Training Centre for Scientific Support to carry out various tasks, which are mainly designed to chemically treat items submitted for the development of latent fingerprints (fingerprint impressions that are not visible to the naked eye). These treatments are carried out on porous and non-porous surfaces in a properly controlled environment. Other facilities enable the trained staff to look at surfaces using a high intensity light source, that will allow latent fingerprints to fluoresce under certain light wavelengths.