Crime scene investigation could come to Sequim, thanks to a two-year $300,000 federal grant awarded to the police department this month.
"It's a novel way to address rural crime," said Sequim Police Chief Robert Spinks.
"Everyone's seen the 'CSI' television program. What is portrayed is technically possible, but most departments don't have the equipment or expertise."
The city council will decide at its Oct. 12 meeting whether to accept the grant that requires no local match, he said.
The grant pays for a civilian forensics investigator, equipment that includes a
"really cool CSI van" and significant training, Spinks said.
The training includes instruction from the U.S. Secret Service plus three weeks at Northwestern University and a month at Sirchie, a national crime scene investigation equipment supplier.
Spinks said the department is shopping for the vehicle and trailer that will allow proper collection of shell casings, bullets and DNA that could be sent to the Washington State Patrol crime lab for analysis.
They also could collect and match fingerprints through the "automated fingerprint identification system," which is a device they are pursuing with another grant, he said.
Then they can market to the community that Sequim has crime scene investigation capability, he said, and seek revenue streams to keep it going.
For example, Spinks might ask police departments in Port Angeles and Forks - scenes of recent shootings - if they would like to support a local forensics investigator.
The grant application was written by Josh Lapp, an information technology expert who moved here from southern California last October.
Lapp is volunteering with the department while he develops his technical skills in computer forensics and fingerprint analysis at Edmonds Community College.
Spinks said Lapp is "certainly a contender" since he wrote the grant and has the necessary degree and training.
He will have to apply for the position through the civil service system along with everyone else, though.
"The best part was getting the grant awarded. I hope to get the job, I've been working hard at it," Lapp said.
Spinks said the department will begin the hiring process after the civil service commission approves the job description, which it will review at its Oct. 6 meeting.
"We're seeking the technical skills. We can teach the cop stuff," he said.
Spinks said the position will be useful because the department only gets Washington State Patrol help with serious felonies.
"So why not train someone to investigate the mis-
demeanor, gross misdemeanor and low-level felonies that don't get Washington State Patrol help?"
The grant requires the investigator to train officers on what to do at a crime scene and be available to other agencies.
Until 2006, the department had equipment and two
people skilled at collecting and comparing fingerprints.
It was a huge advantage having the ability to process and identify a fingerprint from a beer can left at a crime scene and then make an arrest, Spinks said.
"That just doesn't happen in small towns."
The grant was a catalyst to get that resource back, he said.
He wants to re-emphasize the importance of evidence collection so they are shopping for a trailer to use at medium- to major-sized crime scenes, Spinks said.
"So we could get a search warrant, secure the scene and have one person process it and collect evidence instead of having four or five officers in and out of the scene," he said.
Reach Brian Gawley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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