FORENSIC SERVICES BUREAU
The Ventura County Forensic Services Bureau (FSB) is a full service forensic unit within the sheriff’s office that serves all law enforcement agencies in Ventura County. The Bureau consists of approximately 38 full-time forensic scientists, 4 forensic technicians, 6 field evidence technicians, 10 property/evidence staff and 7 support staff. The Bureau analyzes over 14,000 cases, handles over 40,000 items of evidence and responds to approximately 300 crime scenes per year. The Bureau consists of the following sections/units:
- Forensic Biology/DNA Section – Responsible for the examination of evidence to identify biological materials of value and develops DNA profiles according to STR protocols for samples of interest. Samples that are typically handled in this section include sexual assault kits as well as excised stains and swabs which are derived from larger items submitted for examination. Evidence may be worked entirely in this section or may originate in other sections after preliminary examination or evidence collection. The Forensic Biology/DNA section also participates in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) program to facilitate the resolution of otherwise suspect-less cases.
- Comparative Analysis Section – Includes two technical units, Comparative Analysis and Firearms:
- Comparative Analysis Unit – Responsible for the examination of shoe prints and tire tracks for identification and comparison.
- Firearms Unit – Responsible for all aspects of firearm examinations, including the examination of firearms, ammunition, and ammunition components; the microscopic comparisons of fired bullets and cartridge cases; the evaluation of operability and malfunction testing of firearms; bullet path analysis; muzzle-to-target distance determinations; and serial number restorations. Cartridge cases collected from crime scenes, as well as test-fired cartridge cases from submitted firearms, are entered into a database (NIBIN) designed to aid in linking shooting crimes.
- The Chemistry and Forensic Alcohol Section – Includes three technical units, Controlled Substances, Blood Alcohol, and Breath Alcohol:
- Controlled Substances – The analysis and identification of suspected controlled substances (including illegal street drugs and legal abused drugs), pharmaceuticals, and related items in non-biological material.
- Forensic Blood Alcohol – Determination of ethyl alcohol concentrations in body fluids and liquids associated with impaired driving or other traffic related offenses. Responsible for the analysis of blood, urine and other bodily fluids arising from traffic-related offenses (e.g. impaired driving) pursuant to “Title 17” of the California Code of Regulations. The unit is also responsible for the analysis of blood, urine, other bodily fluids, and other liquid samples in non-traffic related crimes (e.g., homicides, sexual assaults) not subject to “Title 17” regulations.
- Forensic Breath Alcohol – Maintenance and calibration of portable breath alcohol testing instruments throughout Ventura County, and training of law enforcement personnel in breath alcohol analysis. Responsible for the calibration and maintenance of breath alcohol testing instruments. The FSB does not perform breath alcohol testing of subjects but does oversee the breath alcohol testing program throughout the County. This activity involves the checks, calibration and maintenance of the portable breath alcohol testing instruments, as well as the training of law enforcement personnel, and the retention of documents supporting these activities. The breath alcohol program is maintained in accordance with “Title 17” of the California Code of Regulations.
- Toxicology – Responsible for the chemical analysis of blood and urine samples for the identification of drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals associated with offenses such as under the influence, impaired driving and sexual assault.
- Crime Scene Investigation and Fingerprint Section – Includes two technical units, Crime Scene Investigation and Fingerprints (Latent Prints):
- Crime Scene Investigations Unit – Primarily responsible for the detailed documentation of crime scenes and the collection/preservation of evidence from crime scenes for the Sheriff’s Office and, upon request, for other local law enforcement agencies. The section also processes items of evidence for latent prints in the laboratory. Bloodstain Pattern Analysis is performed under the umbrella of the Crime Scene Investigations Unit, which includes the examination, documentation, and interpretation (when possible) of a blood shedding event at a crime scene.
- Fingerprint Unit – Responsible for the analysis of latent prints recovered from crime scenes and/or developed from items of evidence in the laboratory. These latent prints may be searched in the local, state, and federal fingerprint databases (AFIS). The unit is also responsible for evaluating the results of these fingerprint database searches and performing all applicable fingerprint comparisons.
- Photo Imaging – Responsible for supporting patrol and investigative staff with photographic technology. This includes the secure storage of all photographic images created by FSB personnel during their analytical work, archiving photographic files in a central database and providing images, as requested. The Photolab also provides photographic services for official Sheriff’s functions, such as promotions and retirements.
- Property and Evidence – Responsible for the intake, storage, safekeeping, release, and disposal of property and evidence, and for supervising the viewing of evidence by the prosecution and defense. The Property Room serves as the main storage facility for evidence and property from the Sheriff’s Office; it also houses items from outside agencies submitting evidence to the Bureau for analysis. The Property Room section logs incoming property and evidence into the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The Property Room section also performs various functions unrelated to investigative purposes, such as storing found property, destroying guns that are submitted by the public and law enforcement, and safekeeping property with which the Sheriff’s Office is temporarily entrusted.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Services Bureau (FSB) is ISO/IEC 17025 accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) as a Testing and Calibration Laboratory. The FSB also complies with the Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories issued by the Federal Bureau Investigation.