As science continues to play a larger role in crime solving, St. Louis Police Department scientists are getting out of the lab and into the streets, while other area departments are expanding their facilities, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis police civilian scientists, with special training in DNA and biological analysis, have been accompanying evidence technicians since May to get a firsthand look at blood splatter, shell casings, soiled clothing, or any of the other signs that can be the key to unlocking the mysteries of crime scenes.
The department credits the new on-call-scientists idea, combined with a new mandatory quick-hit forensics class for all officers, with helping police crack cases quicker. On-scene scientists have helped with important contributions in such high-profile cases as the ATM Solutions robbery and the shooting of St. Louis officer Lucas Roethlisberger, police said. Officers and scientists also said the new practices are improving communication among investigators, street officers and the lab, while streamlining evidence analysis. Kyra Lienhop, one of the on-call DNA scientists, says scientists benefit from getting to see the layout of crime scenes in person. It can make a big difference, she said, to know the specific surroundings of where someone was shot, the entry point to an apartment, or how the pieces of a multiple-site drive-by fit together. “To physically be there and see the layout of the streets” is key, Lienhop said. And when evidence is brought back to the lab, having had a scientist at the scene can help prioritize evidence processing. Since the practice was started in the spring, scientists receive pages summoning them to crime scenes about once a week, usually to help evidence technicians at particularly tricky homicides, burglaries or the sites of sex crimes.