CBI analyst Alex Rugh looks for traces of chemicals on a piece of evidence from a crime scene using a scanning electron microscope.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), under its Forensic Services division, operates five crime labs throughout the state. In 2009, it analyzed nearly 100,000 bullets, blood samples, fingerprints, DNA specimens and other types of crime-scene evidence. For each one, 80 forensic scientists had to conduct a variety of tests with zero tolerance for errors, generate a report for police and courts, and maintain stringent chain-of-custody records to prove evidence hadn’t been tampered with. Until 2008, these were largely manual and paper-based processes, and the division was accumulating a growing backlog of work. That’s when CBI started using a laboratory information management system developed by Forensic Advantage, who upgraded it from Office 2007 to Office 2010 Professional. That’s when CBI became an early adopter of the upgraded solution. CBI is testing the new LIMS and Office 2010 Professional in three of its forensic labs, and plans to deploy it to all 80 Forensic Services analysts by Sep. But the benefits are already clear, says Chet Ubowski, quality assurance manager for the Forensic Services Division. “We’ve been able to reduce the time we spend on each case, significantly cut our case backlog and improve collaboration among our staff,” he says.