Whether solving burglaries or home killings, the small group of men and women who make up the Pasadena Police Department’s forensic section work seven days and nights, every week in their lab and in the field to apply science to criminal investigations.
City officials took to social media on Tuesday to highlight the forensic scientist’s “invaluable work and contributions” on Tuesday, in the midst of Forensic Science Week, which began Sunday and ends. Saturday.
Although they are not sworn law enforcement officers, the work of forensic specialists is invaluable to law enforcement in Pasadena, Lt. William Grisafe said.
“Police detectives can make assumptions about certain aspects of a crime such as cause, manner, etc., but it takes the work of forensic scientists to definitively prove these assumptions scientifically,” he said. declared the lieutenant.
“Without these specialists, many crimes would never be solved or would take much longer to solve. The fact that they can provide scientific facts about the crimes makes their value immeasurable.
The process of forensic science is impersonal, said Alex Padilla, PPD’s forensic supervisor, who leads a team of six forensic specialists and has worked for the agency for 33 years.
“He’s not looking at the person, he’s looking at the evidence,” he said. “Not only can it show guilt, it can also exonerate. “
“It’s based on science,” added Padilla. “Everyone in my office is kind of a science nerd.”
Padilla said he had never been a fan of any of the countless drama television series focused on crime scene forensic investigators. He tried watching it once, he said, but once the show showed an investigator pouring gel into a wound, then removing a cast from a knife blade, he had it. enough seen.
In reality, the work is often a slow and orderly process. Lab results, such as DNA analysis, usually take weeks or months.
“What we are doing is tedious work,” said Padilla. Team members can spend hours photographing and documenting dozens of crime scene evidence
“Everything we do is a little slow, it’s redundant,” he said. “We have a lot of checks and balances. “
After being carefully collected, each fingerprint is analyzed independently by three specialists who have completed at least two years of training in fingerprint interpretation, officials said. Competence is perishable and must be constantly nurtured with retraining. The three analysts must agree, without knowing the determinations of their colleagues, before the match is considered positive.
The technology available to forensic investigators has come a long way over the past three decades.
The analysis of DNA evidence, for example, has become increasingly popular. Los Angeles County forensic facilities, where PPD specialists send samples for analysis, are now able to analyze samples for property crimes such as burglaries, when in their infancy they did not ‘were reserved only for major crimes.
“We have really made progress,” said Padilla.
Other tasks of forensic specialists include collecting evidence such as blood, performing chemical analyzes, creating detailed crime scene diagrams, packing samples for analysis at the county laboratory, and many photographs and videos taken.
“It requires a strong stomach,” according to Padilla. “Some things are very difficult to watch.”
But seeing the scientific investigation translate into concrete results is also very satisfying, he said.
The forensic section plans to move into a new, larger Pasadena Police Department office within the next month, Padilla said.
Once the move is complete, Padilla said he plans to focus on launching an internship program to allow students to gain experience in the field.
Because they are relatively few in number compared to the number of police officers in a given law enforcement agency, the field is “very competitive,” he said.
The last time I hired someone, I processed a few hundred applications, ”said Padilla. The candidates came from all over the country.
In addition to Padilla, the team is made up of forensic pathologists Veronica Palomera, Johnathan Schmidt, Noel Herrera, Olivia Gomez, Jennifer Castillo and Katie Sullivan.
“I have a very good team at the moment. They really want to be in the middle of it, ”said Padilla. “I am really grateful to them.