Forensics Gathering Great Ideas

By Sara Faruqi, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:50 a.m. May 19, 2015
Updated: 12:38 p.m. May 19, 2015

With quickly advancing technology, Forensic Identification Services is always looking for ways to become better at collecting evidence at a crime scene.

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Dick Warrington presents at the training conference

It is the reason they hold a training conference, every year, to allow officers from the Service, neighbouring Services and students to learn about developments in the forensics field. 

This year’s conference, from May 12 to 15, was titled the “The Silver Lining,” and featured topics ranging from latent fingerprint examinations to uses of chemical and biological agents to the 3D-mapping of crime scenes. Several vendors were also present to showcase technology catered towards law enforcement for use in their investigations. 

“Technology is rapidly developing and we have to stay on top of these things,” said  Forensic Identification Services (FIS) Staff Inspector Steve Harris. In the last few years, the Service has started using technology such as 3D Lidar to map out crimes scenes, advanced DNA testing to link people to crimes and newer fingerprint extraction processes to attain the best print possible. 

The three-day conference featured speakers such as David Hodge from Homeland Security, Greg Olson from the Office of the Fire Marshal, Toronto Police Forensic Artist Jo Orsatti presented on creating composite sketches, and Dick Warrington, a well-known Crime Scene Investigation instructor.

Warrington’s talk, “Gizmos and Gadgets,” gave budding and experienced forensic specialists a view on how to innovate in the processing and collection of evidence on crime scenes. From simple things, such as using a dart to extract a lightbulb from a lamp without destroying evidence, to more advanced techniques on how to extract prints from even the trickiest of objects – such as feathers.

“Who says you can’t do it?” is Warrington’s motto and the title of a column he writes for Forensic Magazine. With this idea in mind, he has invented out-of-the-box ways to create evidence-gathering techniques. 

“This is really cool, thinking out of the box, jerry-rigging using common materials to best collect evidence,” said Jason Di Michele, from the FIS photo section, who was attending Warrington’s lecture. 

“This class is all about how to maximize what you can do with limited equipment,” explains Warrington, saying he has a lot of fun coming out to help different law enforcement agencies across North America.

Other topics covered included digital image processing to forensic art to CCTV investigations and 3D shooting reconstruction. 

When it comes to FIS, training is essential, explains Harris, which is why having such seminars and events is vital for Service members to have the ability to keep learning. 

“Our basic course is nine weeks at the Ontario Police College or the Canadian Police College. That is only the beginning. Once they do that, they take other specialized courses on a number of disciplines.

“The expertise we have in Toronto… we have people come across North America for assistance,” says Harris, of the 100 forensic investigators who are pushing the boundaries of the field.  “It amazes me on the day-to-day basis on the success we are having.”

Hands holding a flashlight pointed at a card
A blue light used to detect unseen fluids is demonstrated at the training conference
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