Science Solves Crimes
Besides traffic enforcement, the Indiana State Police are among the nations finest when it comes to solving crimes. Detectives often work tireless hours when investigating heinous crimes. Besides the exhaustive work done by detectives in the field, oftentimes those working “behind the scenes” are the real crime solvers. The Indiana State Police began laboratory services in 1936 when the department was just in its third year of existence. That same year the ISP had its first officer trained on a new crime fighting marvel, the Keeler Lie Detector known today as the polygraph. By 1937, 68 confessions to crimes had been obtained using this new technology. Today the Indiana State Police have six polygraph operators statewide and the polygraph is not only used to solve crimes but is often used to eliminate possible suspects, it is an investigative tool available to assist with internal or administrative investigations, and is used as part of the selection process in hiring new troopers.
In 1933 when the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification became part of the Indiana State Police, there were over 111,500 fingerprints on file. By 1936 when the Indiana State Police established its laboratory they had amassed over 165,000 criminal fingerprints. Over the years fingerprints have become an accepted means of identification and criminals arrested by state police for all felony and certain misdemeanor violations are fingerprinted and those prints are included in both state and national repositories. Besides fingerprints collected by state police, all local police and sheriff departments submit fingerprints to the state repository maintained by the Indiana State Police. Today there are approximately 1.6 million prints on file in Indiana’s state fingerprint database.
Today the Indiana State Police have four regional laboratories located in Indianapolis, Evansville, Lowell, and Ft. Wayne. These labs employ over 176 employees which includes approximately 41 sworn officers and 135 civilians. ISP laboratory services are available to all law enforcement agencies statewide free of charge to the individual department.
The new Indiana State Forensic and Health Sciences Laboratory in Indianapolis broke ground in June of 2005. This facility was designed and built to house three state laboratories. The ISP Indianapolis laboratory previously housed on East 21st moved into the new location in January of 2007. The other two laboratories located in the new facility include the Indiana State Department of Toxicology and the Indiana State Department of Health. The new facility is approximately a 180,000 square foot building. Of this, about 75,000 square feet is dedicated for use by Indiana State Police laboratory personnel on three different floors in this state-of-the-art complex.
Today’s ISP Laboratory Division is organized into five sections; Biology, Chemistry, Comparative Science, Crime Scene and Field Support, and Management and Administration. The Biology Section consists of Serology, DNA, and CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). The Chemistry Section consists of the Drug Unit and Microanalysis Unit. Comparative Sciences Section consists of the Firearms Unit (Integrated Ballistics Identification System or IBIS), Latent Fingerprint Unit (including Automated Fingerprint Identification System or AFIS), Photography Unit, and Questioned Document Unit. Crime Scene and Field Support Section consists of the Polygraph Unit and Crime Scene Investigators. The Management and Administration Section consist of administrative and support personnel.
Turn-around times fluctuate somewhat from month to month and from lab to lab, but currently DNA and drug identification turn-around times both average 36 days statewide. The Division’s goal is a 45-day turn-around time for all disciplines. All units currently meet or exceed that goal with the exception of the Latent Print Unit, which will meet the 45-day goal once all of the new staff is trained and working casework.
As it was in the past and is still the current practice today, Indiana State Police Crime Scene Investigators process not only crime scenes investigated by ISP, they are also available to process crime scenes for local agencies. Many times smaller agencies lack the resources to employ their own CSI’s so they still rely on the Indiana State Police for support and assistance with crime scene investigation. The importance of proper crime scene management, processing, and investigation often can mean the difference between solving a case and having the perpetrator get away with a crime. Currently the Indiana State Police Laboratory Division has 22 Crime Scene Investigators, three Quality Assurance personnel, and three Crime Scene Investigator Supervisors.
Since those early days, laboratory services have become much more sophisticated but the Indiana State Police has kept current in the latest laboratory technology to provide the best possible service to the investigators and other police departments statewide. More often than not, this service translates into solved crimes and those who perpetrate such crimes paying for their illegal activities.
*NOTE-The source of some of the above historical information: Gangsters, Gunfire, and Political Intrigue: The History of the Indiana State Police by Marilyn Olsen.