Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $264,000)
The Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory (MSPCL) is a state government laboratory dedicated to providing excellence in service through quality forensic science. The MSPCL proposes the following initiative to reduce the forensic case backlog and decrease the turnaround time for the forensic science services provided by the Trace, Arson and Explosives Unit (TRAE).
The MSPCL requests funding from this program to purchase, install, and train analysts on, the operation of a Low Vacuum Scanning Electron Microscope for our TRAE unit. The anticipated outcome of this initiative is to decrease the case backlog and turnaround time of forensic examination in the TRAE Unit at the MSPCL, while increasing the unit’s caseload capacity. Studies strongly suggest a direct correlation between the opioid crisis and the increase in gun crimes throughout the Commonwealth. While this instrument would not be used for directly testing controlled substances it would be used for GSR testing that is often associated with Drug related offenses and therefore is directly related to the opioid crisis.
The scanning electron microscope is principally used for the location and identification of gunshot primer residue (GSR) and can be utilized for the analysis of other types of forensic trace samples. While the TRAE Unit was fortunate enough to receive state funds to purchase one new SEM in 2019, the TRAE Unit currently has two scanning electron microscopes with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) that are 15 and 18 years old. These older instruments are no longer supported by the manufacturer and therefore should they require maintenance they would be out of service indefinitely. With the addition of another current model SEM instrument, the TRAE unit could nearly double the case capacity and eliminate the backlog within a years’ time. Additionally, the new instrument has better resolution for sample processing, thereby improving the quality of the forensic service provided.
There are currently three forensic scientists trained to operate, analyze, and review cases processed with the SEM instrumentation. Two more full time case working analyst are in training and will be authorized to perform SEM casework within a year. With the addition of another SEM, each full-time analyst would have an instrument available to them at any given time allowing for more timely analysis.