Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $132,000)
The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Crime Scene Investigation Unit (CSI) oversees felony crime scene investigations (homicides, sexual assaults, armed robberies, etc). CSI, Detectives collect, package, and preserve evidence from crime scenes using forensic techniques, tools, equipment, and chemicals. Detectives are then responsible for proper documentation and for providing evidence and testimony of facts observed and recorded during trials. Insuring integrity of all evidence collected, and documenting and processing the entire crime scene, regardless of whether it implicates or exonerates suspects in a case, is the main focus.
As Cumberland County's population increases, so does the demand on CCSO's CSI Unit, which processes an average of 2,200 scenes a year. Without improved methods for processing and documenting crime scenes, the ability to properly and timely conclude cases will be negatively affected. Duty to preserve certain types of evidence collected through criminal investigations and prosecutions, which begins once the agency has gathered and taken possession of evidence, exists per the 6th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution, which protects a defendants rights to due process and a fair trial. Governments must disclose all evidence to be
used at trial, whether favorable or unfavorable to the defendant.
Documenting a crime scene is an arduous process. Reviewing and documenting numerous physical photographs and sketches is a laborious task that is not always the most accurate, taking days or weeks of a detective's time. Digital, real-time recordings of crime scenes can be completed in a fraction of that time, allowing more time for completing review of a case, and is more accurate and compressive. Laser scanning equipment allows detectives to digitally record and capture entire crime scenes in 30 at a touch of a button, creating accurate representations of crime scenes and virtually reconstructing crime scene to provide better understanding of the environment and events that happened, which can be revisited multiple times to verify witness testimony and evaluate hypotheses. Recorded data can be presented as evidence during trials, allowing for explanation of hypothesis and confirmation or rebuttal of witness testimony.
The CCSO currently does not own this equipment. It would vastly improve crime scene investigations by allowing more accurate and timely processing of crime scenes and allowing more time to review and analyze information. It would also lead to more accurate and timely investigations, with the intended objective of solving the crime more timely and ensuring offenders are properly prosecuted.