Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department awards the Marshall University Forensic Science Center with commendation
The Marshall University Forensic Science Center was awarded a commendation from the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department in appreciation of providing intensive DNA training to its forensic analysts.
Dr. Terry W. Fenger, director of Marshall’s Forensic Science Center, said it is an honor to receive recognition from Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police Cathy Lanier for the collaborative effort between the agencies to develop and implement a customized DNA analysis training program conducted at the center.
The purpose of the “DNA boot camp” training program was to prepare four forensic examiners to become qualified to perform DNA analysis on evidence.
Fenger said the Forensic Science Center considered it a privilege to further develop the capabilities of the crime laboratory’s excellent staff. “The forensic scientists from the Metropolitan Police Department were enthusiastic and energetic about their training, and they showed dedication to providing essential forensic services they perform for the justice system,” he said.
Peter Newsham, Assistant Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department, said the department was very excited to be given the opportunity to have its DNA examiners trained at the Marshall University Forensic Science Center.
“Marshall University is recognized for its world-class DNA training program, and the training our examiners have received will give the Metropolitan Police Department’s fledgling laboratory a great start,” he said. “The courts, prosecutors and the law enforcement community will know that our examiners have completed the best training program that is available.”
The Metropolitan Police Department requested assistance from Marshall’s Forensic Science Center because it is in the process of expanding its capabilities. Training new analysts is labor-intensive, and laboratory staff who provide training are also tasked with processing cases. The training program alleviated time constraints at the crime laboratory so that experienced analysts could concentrate on forensic laboratory work to solve crimes while the Forensic Science Center provided training to advance the skills of the four forensic scientists.
In addition, the District of Columbia is building a state-of-the-art Consolidated Forensic Laboratory to be completed in 2012 that will house the public health lab, the chief medical examiner’s office and the police department’s crime lab. Training the forensic examiners helped with preparation for a seamless transition into the new facility.
The Metropolitan Police Department’s Crime Laboratory is accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory accreditation board-International (ASCLD/LAB-International). It currently consists of a Forensic Biology Unit and a Trace Evidence Unit.
In April, Fenger kicked off the first phase of the training program at the current Washington, D.C., lab facility by providing a week of instruction for four hours daily on molecular biology, focusing on DNA.
Subsequently, the four examiners came to the Marshall University Forensic Science Center to attend training sessions covering DNA analysis on state-of the art instrumentation, Forensic DNA Y-STR analysis for identification of male DNA, and relationship testing from April through June 2010. Three examiners completed five weeks of training.
Krystyna H. Hopkinson, a forensic scientist who has worked at the Metropolitan Police Department Crime Laboratory for six years, is one of the four forensic examiners who attended the DNA boot camp. Over a span of six months, she trained at Marshall’s Forensic Science Center for 11 weeks to gain additional practical experience.
Hopkinson spent an additional six weeks at Marshall throughout July to September, alternating two weeks at the Forensic Science Center doing practical exercises and two weeks at the Washington, D.C., Crime Laboratory working and completing additional training assignments.
A serologist, Hopkinson examines evidence for the presence of blood or other biological fluids and takes a cutting from it in preparation for DNA analysis by a qualified examiner. Successful completion of the training program will qualify her as a DNA analyst so she can perform the DNA lab work herself.
She presented letters of commendation to the following Marshall University Forensic Science Center DNA analysts for their roles in providing training to the crime lab staff: Jason Chute, DNA technical leader of the forensic DNA laboratory; Justin Godby, DNA training coordinator; and Josh Stewart, training officer. These DNA analysts also work on forensic cases for state and local crime laboratories in West Virginia and across the nation.
Hopkinson said she was thankful for the opportunity. “I had a wonderful and rewarding experience at the Marshall University Forensic Science Center and during my stay in Huntington,” she said. “It was a unique experience to see the difference between the variations in lifestyle of a big city, and the people of Huntington were very warm and friendly.”
At the Metropolitan Police Department, the forensic examiners are continuing their DNA analyst training, which includes competency testing, oral boards and moot court testimony.
The training was made possible by National Institute of Justice cooperative agreements in support of training forensic analysts and assisting the state and local crime laboratories with critical needs.
Photo by David Fatalleh.