The men and women of the Integrated Forensic Identification Services (IFIS) are responsible for collecting, processing, analyzing and interpreting evidence found at the scene of a crime.
It is a painstaking job that requires years of special training and an eagle eye for detail. Often it is the evidence gathered by the forensic identification officers and assistants that leads to a guilty plea or a conviction in court.
The Lower Mainland’s IFIS is the largest integrated forensics service in the country with 83 employees. The team is comprised of 55 highly trained, experienced police officers with three years of specialized forensic training; 11 forensic identification assistants who are civilian scientists with backgrounds in areas such as chemistry or anthropology; six video analysts; and 11 support staff. Seven positions are currently funded by the Province of BC, three by the federal government and the remaining are municipally funded.
The integrated model has allowed the RCMP to improve the availability of forensic services and to improve training and mentorship of junior members. Centralized administration and budgeting also assisted in standardizing the purchase of and access to high-cost, specialized equipment.
The team continues to evolve and has moved to a ‘hub’ concept, which has team members assigned to geographic areas within the LMD to reduce employee travel time and improve relationships with detachments. IFIS members are on shift 17 hours a day, seven days a week.
Some of the highlights of 2010/11 include:
- Implementation of the ‘hub’ system was completed – the LMD was divided into four geographic areas for scheduling purposes. The members based in the detachments within each area only respond to calls in their area. This has resulted in shorter response times, a reduction of time spent traveling, and has increased the level of supervision at scenes and during the investigational process. Also, with IFIS members working out of each detachment, they are able to work more closely with detachment investigators, something that the officers in charge of each detachment are very pleased with.
- A new four-watt laser has been acquired for each lab. This laser significantly increases the detail that can be seen in fingerprints and other trace evidence. It also is able to detect trace evidence that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Other new acquisitions include new cameras and equipment used for scene and computer examination of evidence.
- The pilot project utilizing forensic identification assistants (FIAs) that started in 2009 has proven to be a successful, innovative and cost-effective way of delivering a high-quality forensic service. During the two-year project the FIAs were contract employees. Nine of the ten positions have now been classified as permanent civilian member positions. A permanent funding stream for these positions has yet to be established.
- The remaining FIA position was changed to a Forensic Video Analyst Coordinator position. The change in technology for video capture from disc to digital video recorders has greatly increased the level of specialized knowledge required by video analysts. The creation of this position for a person with the high level of technological skill required to manage and supervise the analysts will ensure recognized video analysis practices are observed.
- The creation of a new website for IFIS is underway and it will be live by Spring 2011.
- The creation of a three-person, federally funded unit that will handle federal files such as drug cases.