Partnership provides unique approach to forensic provision and police investigations
LGC Forensics has nine sites in the UK and two in Germany and employs circa 600 scientists, technicians and support staff. As a full-service forensic provider, LGC Forensics say they can can maximise forensic science input by designing the best examination strategies, recovering the most evidence, ensuring the integrity and continuity of samples, however complex the testing regime, and drawing all the strands of evidence together to allow the full strength of the scientific evidence to emerge. Here we lookLaboratory News looks at how this has been augmented in this has been achieved with aa unique partnership between undertaken by LGC Forensics and West Yorkshire Police force.
In May this year, LGC Forensics opened a new laboratory facility at West Yorkshire Police’s new headquarters in Wakefield. This purpose-built, state- of- the- art, building is now home to a unique unified approach to forensics provision and police investigations.
As the UK’s largest full-service forensic science provider, LGC Forensics is able to mobilise considerable and highly-specialised resources to discover, analyse and present reliable evidence on behalf of law enforcement agencies, legal professionals and private individuals. Expert teams come together to develop and tenaciously execute imaginative, tailored strategies to preserve and recover the best evidence in individual cases.
Following the closure of the Forensic Science Service’s (FSS) lab in Wetherby, LGC Forensics has secured the North East service level agreement, and with it gained a fantastic opportunity to lease space within the headquarters of the West Yorkshire Police (WYP) force. As a new model for partnership-working, the new building enables LGC Forensics to carry out core forensic services not just for WYP but for the whole North East region.
The new building was officially opened by, and named after, Sir Alec Jeffreys, the British geneticist who developed techniques for DNA fingerprinting and DNA profiling which are now used all over the world in forensic science to assist police detective work. Complementing the LGC Forensics laboratory, the new facility is also home to a range of WYP’s core teams including submissions, fingermarks and digital imaging.
This promotes greater all-round understanding of the whole process – from submissions to reporting – and is a real boon to forming a true partnership between the scientists and the forces
There are many advantages to setting up forensic operations ‘in-house’ in this way, it is a real benefit for the forensic scientists to be based on the same site as investigating officers, giving opportunity, for example, for any potential points for discussion to be actioned much more immediately. Not only does this improve service but it also improves communication as meetings can now quickly be set up face-to-face; often it is a case of being able to simply pop down the corridor. This promotes greater all-round understanding of the whole process - – from submissions to reporting – and is a real boon to forming a true partnership between the scientists and the forces. An early example of this was a case in which a joint visual lab assessment between WYP and LGC of a handbag required biology and fingermark examination. As this occurred in the first week of operations it evidenced the immediate benefits of co-location: there was quick and easy collaboration, joint examination was facilitated much more easily than previously and transit between sites was not required – thus saving both time and money.
TAs the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison, said:ys, “The future of successful crime investigation, particularly serious crime, relies upon the advancement and application of forensic science. We are in a position these days to take fingerprints from most materials so long as they can be developed in a laboratory setting. We are also able to take DNA and check it, within minutes, against a database of millions from a hair or a microscopic small amount of blood or body fluid”.
LGC Forensics’ operational set up at Wakefield employs over 60 staff across biology search-and-recovery, scene attendance, evidential footwear and urgent drugs, along with various support roles. Allied to approximately 120 members of WYP, this makes the Wakefield partnership the largest of its kind in the country. Although the majority of the staff werewas employed by the FSS previously, each one underwent an intensive LGC Forensics training programme at the WYP training centre in (Bishopgarth), which has proved invaluable in building relationships between the scientists and the police officers.
Naturally, LGC Forensics was keen to demonstrate that the laboratory space has been rigorously tested and is now accredited to United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) standards. As part of the verification process, every examination method and procedure that will be undertaken on-site was run, in situ, on mock samples, in order to establish that performance is comparable to that of all other LGC Forensics sites. In addition, staff have been inducted into the LGC Forensics Quality Management System and have been trained and assessed as competent by LGC Forensics staff from the Tamworth and Risley sites. Laboratory classification, cleaning, assessment and monitoring will be conducted according to LGC Forensics policy and procedure which also, of course, measures up to UKAS standards. A series of internal audits have and will be initiated to demonstrate conformance to the requirements of the LGC Forensics divisional Standard Operating Procedures. Proficiency trials, particularly around Blood Pattern Analysis, have been purchased for a number of commercial suppliers and the exercise programme amended for our participation in AFSP exercises.
The LGC Forensics site in Wakefield utilises the same, well-established, Service Delivery Manager and Team Lead structure as all other casework sites.
Headcount totals 64 including scientific, management and admin staff, 11 of whom are scene lead / reporting scientists, 30 are reporting scientists, 23 are examiners and 11 are support staff (administrators / laboratory technicians and submissions staff).
The support functions at Wakefield, including submissions, admin and lab technicians are managed together as a team by the support team lead.
The submissions and lab tech role type also have a link in to the national management of their role via the team lead.
Managing these functions in this way reflects the unique set-up of this particular LGC Forensics lab and the fact that it is in a non-LGC building. There is, of course, a requirement to have robust control of the functions within the leased space. In setting up this unique structure, LGC Forensics worked very closely with West Yorkshire Police in order to satisfy both partners’ requirements. Working in this way has enabled the teams to develop a structure for close working relationships, improving service delivery and creating a unique partnership between a private service provider and police forces.
The Chair of West Yorkshire Police Authority, Councillor Mark Burns-Williamson OBE said: "I [was] delighted to officially open [the] state-of-the-art scientific support facility…the specialists working here will benefit enormously from the improved facilities, which in turn will help West Yorkshire Police and the forces in the region to take advantage of the latest in crime fighting techniques for many years to come.”
“The Police Authority is pleased to support this investment, as it is good news for the people of Wakefield District as well as West Yorkshire and beyond in the fight against and detection of crimes.
“It places West Yorkshire at the forefront strategically in this area of policing, and I am pleased the Police Authority and the Force had the vision to start this project over four years ago.”
Steve Allen, Managing Director of LGC Forensics agrees, saying, “At its simplest, forensic science can provide fast, focused results in a timely, cost-effective way, helping police forces to tackle the thousands of minor offences committed every day. Forensic evidence provides vital - – and sometimes the only – links between criminals and their crimes as well as substantiating court testimony. People’s lives and reputations depend on it.”
- Work carried out by the new LGC Forensics and West Yorkshire Police force:
Biology Search & Recovery casework examinations. This involves forensic scientists looking for body fluids on forensic submissions and retrieving/extracting them for examination
Scene attendance. Accompanying the WYP to a scene of crime in order to undertake all necessary analysis (backing-up and ensuring the correct submissions/extractions are taken is a vital part of the process and cuts down on the time needed to complete analysis)
Evidential footwear. If footmarks are left at scenes then the team can use that for comparison to link suspects to crimes.
Urgent drugs. Analysis of seized substances to determine legality, whether or not they are actually drugs, purity levels etc.
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