Most of the detectives I know like to hear things straight up, so here it is. I recently heard of a DNA analyst who was handed a shirt by a detective who said “Find the DNA off of that.” That may sound reasonable to some, but as a man who talks to both law enforcement and forensic scientists on a regular basis, let me make a few suggestions based on what I see agencies doing that are producing results.
If you have ever done something similar, you likely made the wrong request too. Why? Because producing a DNA profile usually doesn’t work that way. Maybe your investigation is down to the Hail Mary and if that’s the case then it’s worth taking a swing at it, but even then it needs to be more focused. That analyst was likely not the best person for what the detective needed anyway – namely to locate and collect the DNA. Crime lab personnel, in their unadulterated roles, are the folks who objectively run elaborate scientific equipment or processes to analyze DNA, finger prints, fired rounds, etc. Is he or she the right person to process the DNA sample to generate the profile? Absolutely. That’s where a lab scientist’s expertise fully comes into play. But who would be the person most likely to know where the DNA was deposited? It should be you and/or your crime scene investigator. Your investigative team is the closest to the scene of the crime and the evidence, so someone from your team would be the most effective in the collection, especially if you choose the right tool. Don’t abdicate control over such a critical, but often under-emphasized, step.
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