Starting in 1991, the Fullerton Police Department made the decision to change their current Crime Scene Program, which at the time was utilizing sworn police officers to work crime scenes to an all Forensic Civilian Investigators program. Prior to 1991, Fullerton Police officers and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were used as a tandem team depending on the severity of the crime scene and man power requirements needed to work the scene to a successful conclusion. In 1991 the conversion was completed to an all civilian program.
Over the last fifteen years the Forensic Crime Scene Unit has been involved with numerous cases ranging from petty theft to homicide scenes. Currently there are five forensic specialists assigned to the forensic unit. There is a Lead Forensic Specialist, two Forensic Specialist II positions, and two Forensic Specialist I positions.
The main function of the Forensic unit is to respond to the crime scene in order to document the scene and collect evidence. This may include overall crime scene photography, diagrams, blood collection, bodily fluid collection, bullet trajectory documentation, video tape documentation and latent fingerprint collection.
Within the detail there are three other main areas that contribute to the overall success of the Forensic Program.
The in-house photo lab has proven itself time and time again to provide us with the ability to generate our crime scene photos at the department with no required support from outside sources. This has proven to be invaluable when a detective calls and states that they just received a call from court and need 200 photos in one hour on that homicide case from 1999. This has happened on more than one occasion. The AFIS fingerprint computer terminal is used on a daily basis. This automated fingerprint identification system is able to search latent fingerprints against a database of persons previously arrested or printed for other reasons. This system has a number of functions that allow us to find and identify outstanding suspects from fingerprints that are collected from the crime scenes we work. From this one terminal we can search three major fingerprint data bases to include the FBI, Department of Justice and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. When you leave the crime scene with just one partial latent fingerprint with no other evidence, AFIS time and time again has proven itself to be an invaluable tool in identifying these outstanding suspects. Our in house chemical processing lab is where we process all evidence collected from the crime scenes we work. This may include processing evidence items for fingerprints with powders or chemicals depending on the surface of the evidence we are processing. There may be a need to collect a DNA or a blood sample from a shirt, hat, glass etc. There may be a request to photograph a bullet hole or a rip in a shirt to document the stab wound site. We may need to use the alternate light source to identify body fluids on a car seat or blanket. All other evidence that is out of our range or ability to process will be sent down to the Orange’s County Sheriff’s Forensic Lab for further processing.