Collaborate, Advocate and Educate – Concepts for a New Approach to Laboratory & Crime Scene Analysis


Pete Valentin is a man of many talents and wearer of many hats when it comes to the “art and science “of crime scene investigation. As a former detective in the Major Crime Squad of the Connecticut State Police, member of an elite search and rescue disaster team; forensic scientist, lecturer at the renowned Henry Lee Institute and expert in many facets of forensic investigation techniques, he brings many well honed skills to the doorstep of violent crime.

He takes nothing for granted…and makes no assumptions that could be considered a “rush to judgment,” when it comes to crime analysis…for that is not his way as a trained scientist, nor is it the model he teaches his students.  In fact, he shared some innovative concepts designed to address some of the maladies of the system under which he labors….

“Ladyjustice” and Kim Kolton had a thoughtful discussion with this guest, illustrative of the overwhelming nature of what it really takes to solve crimes in 2012. To participate, please read the following summary and CLICK HERE for the podcast.

  • Practical tips for Surviving Natural Disasters – Hurricane Sandy – Pete is on alert as an experienced search and rescue professional with the National Disaster Medical System; If deployed, he deals with mass casualties and the forensics capabilities to positively identify persons to be returned to their families….
  • Explaining the myths perpetuated by the television They make it look crime scene analysis quicker and more time intensive process;
  • Myths – There’s an easy, logical path to follow that leads us to solve the crime whereas it’s much more confusing….  Confessions and suspects;
  • Realities…. 1) Not all cases are solved with forensic science – actually it’s in the 30 or 40% range.  Whereas most cases are solved with “good old fashioned detective work;” 2) Even if we have evidence to examine forensically, we can’t wait to see what the evidence yields… they have to continue to work regardless of the forensics;
  • Ladyjustice asks about the realistic timeline when submitting pieces of evidence – How long does it take to process?  We need to know which lab and what type of crime it is….
  • Backlogs – DNA and what you want examined…
  • Considerations of the seriousness of the crime and priorities – Not enough analysts and resources…
  • What can we realistically do about the backlogs? They will only increase…
  • The ideal versus the realist- How to manage the amount of evidence coming into the lab…  Example of 50 items – examine the range of possibilities re and the likely scenario of the crime. Rather submit 8 pieces… and keep track of your case. We need to become smarter about what evidence we seize;
  •  We need to Collaborate– recognizing our limitations. Who is better than me in this particular area that I can pull in to the team?
  • Law enforcement and egos….  Mistakes are made and remembered as a team effort;
  • Advocating –Prosecutors may ask detectives to run down leads or they may anticipate a line of attack the defense may use to raise doubt etc……. Such requests tend to sidetrack the case….
  • Political getting in the way of the scientific process. Therefore, the forensic experts need to explain to prosecutors and testify at the trial in front of a jury versus running needless tests.
  • Education – all components – police, prosecutors , subject matter experts who testify help to educate the jury, all contribute to this component;
  • How to implement??  It depends upon the region, the jurisdiction, criminal justice relationships…..    Building relationships versus accelerating;
  • Pete is trying to suggest an approach as to how to deal with the backlog that doesn’t include simply hiring more analysts.
  • ***You need one person who sees the bigger picture to affect change ;
  • Illustrative Example for the audience – a burglary that goes unanalyzed leading to a more serious crime… Needless…. Priorities   “Because we couldn’t get to the evidence sooner, another crime was committed.”
  •  Pete says…. Crime victims need to be advocates for the increased funding…They have a bully pulpit that no one else has….
  • Funding Sources…. Laboratory have access to Federal funds, creativity is in the mix using a good grant writer…. “Pick our heads up and look down the road to see where we’re going and where we want to be…”
  •  The Henry Lee Institute – Embarking on some great research to push research in new directions…. Applying for grants. This needs to happen across the country including academic settings;
  • You need someone to justify what the lab does, how it impacts public safety,  the benefit to having more analysts;
  • When an average  citizen  encounters a crime scene– 1) – Render aid IF someone is injured a sa priority, 2) You might be the only person who observes “something” making the difference between solving or not solving the case  Called “Transient Conditions or Conditional Evidence”- Ice Cream Example and what it tells us…
  • Other examples…
  •  Distinguishing relevant versus irrelevant evidence and then improper packaging … that’s a huge failure…
  • Paper versus plastic evidence packaging –In order for the evidence to survive, we need to eliminate moisture… causing bacteria to grow. It might consume the cells containing DNA.   Therefore paper is the best medium, because it’s porous.
  • Dry your evidence before packaging… Think long-term…
  • Cross –contamination– We try to establish linkages such as with trace evidence; Carpet example…
  •  We need to keep the evidence separate….  Connecting the victim and the suspect….    Is it because we introduced them or is it because it really happened?
  • Changing gloves…. And the sensitivity of DNA
  • Testifying to what our standard procedures are  such that you limit the chance of cross contamination;
  • As an Instructor at the Henry Lee Institute – He has “the cream of the crop” students in the forensic science program….  He tries to show students… that which is portrayed, is not reality when it comes to crime scene investigation in the real world. He shows the science and then the application so that they have a true appreciation;
  • What is the one important multi-useful tool that we should bring to every crime scene???  Listen to find out…. Very interesting…..
  • Thank-yous and sign off….



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