The mission of the Crime Laboratory is to provide our community with quality forensic science and excellent service.
The Crime Laboratory is part of the Forensics Division of the Investigative Services Bureau. The Tucson Police Crime Laboratory was founded in 1960 and is the oldest crime laboratory in Arizona. The laboratory has had four previous homes. The first lab was at the now demolished Parkview Hotel (in the vicinity of Congress and West Pennington).
In 1961, the Laboratory was given space in the basement of the old City Hall. The Laboratory moved to a new location in 1972 on the first floor of the new Tucson Police Headquarters at 270 South Stone Avenue.
When the Headquarters building was expanded in 1989, the Laboratory moved into a larger facility in the west wing. The Laboratory outgrew that facility and in 2011 moved into our own building at 1306 West Miracle Mile.
In 1993, our Laboratory was one of the first municipal crime laboratories in the United States to gain national accreditation by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors-Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB, now ANAB/ASCLD-LAB).
The Tucson Police Crime Laboratory is a full-service facility with eight operational units:
- Forensic Biology (DNA)
- Latent Prints
- Latent Print Processing
- Chemical Analysis (Drugs and Fire Debris),
- Toxicology (alcohol analysis)
- Forensic Electronic Media
- Administrative Support.
We have a staff of 35 people including a Crime Laboratory Superintendent, a Quality Manager, five coordinators (section supervisors including the DNA Technical Leader), 23 criminalists, a forensic computer examiner, three crime scene specialists and a division secretary. The Crime Laboratory Superintendent is Jelena Myers.
For most Crime Laboratory positions a Bachelor’s Degree is required, preferably in a physical science. Each Section of the Laboratory has its own training program, which can vary from two years for a new Firearms Examiner to 12-18 months for a Criminalist in Drug Analysis.
For job opportunities at the Crime Lab please see the City of Tucson website, https://www.tucsonaz.gov/jobs. The Crime Laboratory does not offer internships.
Forensic Biology (DNA) Section
The TPD Forensic Biology (DNA) section has one Coordinator, one DNA Technical Leader and seven full time Criminalists and one half time Criminalist, who splits her time with Fire Debris analysis. Sources of DNA are biological fluids like blood, semen, saliva, or touch DNA from skin cells. A complete copy of an individual’s DNA is found in most cells of their body. This DNA is extracted, amplified using Polymerase Chain Reaction, and analyzed.
Evidence analyzed includes bloodstains, bedding, clothing, drink containers, weapons, eyeglasses, stamps, hair roots, cigarette butts, steering wheel swabs, automobile airbags, partly eaten food, fingernails, etc. Cases now include property crimes and cold cases, as well as crimes against people.
DNA profiles are compared to buccal cells (cells from the cheek) or bloodstain standards from suspects and/or victims, or can be searched through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database.
For additional information, contact Andrea Frank, DNA Coordinator at Andrea.Frank@tucsonaz.gov.
Comparative Analysis Section – Firearms
Two Firearm Examiners and one Coordinator currently staff this unit. Most of the analyses rely heavily upon observation (rather than instrumentation) to make a determination. They examine expended cartridge cases and bullets from crime scenes to determine if they can be linked to a specific firearm. If the firearm is not available, examination of the bullets and/or cartridge cases allows a determination of the type of weapon used, information that is often useful to the case detective. Comparisons are conducted using a comparison microscope that allows the examiner to view both the evidence sample and the test sample simultaneously.
Other examinations performed by the Firearm Examiners include function tests, trigger pull measurements (the force required to fire the weapon), muzzle-to-target distance determinations, and serial number restorations.
The Laboratory participates in a nationwide computer database, NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistics Information Network Program) that links firearms from crimes in multiple jurisdictions. We testify in court on all our findings, as needed.
For additional information, contact Tony Windsor, Coordinator, at Tony.Windsor@tucsonaz.gov.
Latent Print Processing Section
The Latent Print Processing (LPP) Lab has been in existence since 2008 and officially moved into the Crime Lab in 2013. Latent prints are unseen fingerprints, palm prints, or foot prints which are from an unknown source and often require additional development using physical processes or chemistry and light. Two Latent Print Processors staff the LPP Lab and are responsible for detecting, developing and collecting latent prints from evidence collected at crime scenes.
The majority of latent prints in the lab are collected using advanced photographic techniques. These examiners process evidence using several visual, chemical and physical methods, often collecting DNA from items once the fingerprint examination is completed. The examiners also provide court testimony on fingerprint detection and collection and the collection of DNA.
Contact Tony Windsor, Latent Print Processing Coordinator, at Tony.Windsor@tucsonaz.gov.
Latent Print Comparison Section
The Latent Print Unit became part of the Crime Lab in 2001 and is currently staffed by five Latent Print Examiners (LPE). Latent prints are chance impressions left by an individual, and these latent prints are collected by both officers and Crime Scene Specialists from crime scenes. LPEs are responsible for analyzing these latent prints and comparing them to known fingerprints.
Known fingerprints are a deliberate recording of a known person’s fingerprints. Latent prints can also be searched through state and national fingerprint databases, which contain fingerprint and palm print records of known individuals.
As of 2017, the state database had 3.9 million fingerprint files and 1.5 million palm print files. The national database contains 134 million fingerprint files and 10.4 million palm print files. Ultimately, LPEs testify on conclusions reached during fingerprint comparisons.
Contact Terry Gallegos, Latent Print Coordinator, at Terry.Gallegos@tucsonaz.gov.
Chemical Analysis Section – Drugs
We analyze the powders, tablets, capsules and unknown substances that are suspected of being dangerous drugs or narcotics. These can be as simple as an aspirin tablet or as complex as a dozen samples from a suspected drug lab. We go to court and give testimony on all of our findings, when required. We are also responsible for training officers in how to use the field Drug Test kits. This section includes two full time Criminalists and one Crime Lab Coordinator. Contact Lisa.Windsor@tucsonaz.gov, Chemical Analysis Coordinator.
Chemical Analysis Section – Fire Debris
One fulltime Criminalist staffs this section. The Fire Debris Criminalist examines fire debris evidence for the presence of ignitable liquids. Testimony is given in court on all of the findings, as needed. For additional information, please contact Lisa.Windsor@tucsonaz.gov, Chemical Analysis Coordinator.
There are three fulltime Criminalists in this section. We analyze blood samples for alcohol content and maintain the Department’s Intoxilyzer instruments.
We are responsible for training officers in the operation of the Intoxilyzer. We go to court and give testimony on all our findings, as needed. Contact Lisa.Windsor@tucsonaz.gov, Chemical Analysis Coordinator.
Forensic Electronic Media Unit
This unit has four Digital Media Analysts who handle computer, mobile device and video forensics.
This unit is the only unit in the Crime Lab that responds to crime scenes to collect evidence, in the form of videos.
Our primary functions are to collect, preserve, process, and analyze digital evidence. For additional information, please contact Tony Windsor, FEMU Coordinator, at Tony.Windsor@tucsonaz.gov.