Crime Lab Brings Closure To Tough Cases
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s crime lab continues to bring science and technology together that has enabled it to crack tough cases, such as the 45-year-old murder of two El Segundo police officers.
Last winter, technicians at the crime lab made a startling breakthrough by running the fingerprints of 69-year-old South Carolina businessman Gerald F. Mason through a FBI database and finding a match, and then conducted firearm analysis and handwriting evaluation.
The strong evidence ultimately prompted a guilty plea from Mason, who was sentenced to life in prison.
July represents the 75th anniversary of the crime lab, which was initially located in the Hall of Justice, where two employees processed firearms, fingerprints, and other physical evidence. The crime lab moved to Main Street in the 1950s and 1960s, expanding into polygraphs, document and handwriting identification, toxicology, breath, and video analysis as technology continued to advance.
Today, more than 200 scientists, technicians, and administrative staff members annually process 75,000 pieces of evidence, including blood work, hair, and carpet fibers, at the downtown lab on Beverly Boulevard, and other facilities are located in Downey, West Covina, Lynwood, and Lancaster.
An increase in information in state and federal computer databases of offenders’ DNA and fingerprints, in addition to ballistics information on firearms, has enabled detectives to solve more cases, but movies and television dramas have increased the public’s imagination of what authorities can do with technology.
The Sheriff’s Department will open a $96 million forensics crime lab on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles in 2006.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Los Angeles Times (07/11/03) P. 2-2; Blankstein, Andrew.