"The closest the real world comes to the fictitious sleuths of television's "CSI" is now in Denver.
Every unit of the Denver Police Department's crime lab has now won seals of approval based on the most rigorous international standards — one of just a handful of labs in the nation to achieve the standard across all the disciplines it utilizes.
Lab director Greggory LaBerge has even grander plans for his department, which he hopes can become a regional forensics hub after a move into a new $39 million building next summer.
LaBerge touts the economic benefits of low crime rates and the police resources saved by reliable forensics work. But more important, he said, is peace of mind for crime victims.
"It's all about trust. The first thing you want to know is if people are going to catch the person who did this to me," LaBerge said. Evidence "could get thrown out of court if you don't meet certain standards. . . . We are meeting and surpassing those standards."
The 42 employees and 20 volunteers at the Police Department's lab pitch in on up to 15,000 investigations a year. Nearly every day, one of them presents their findings in criminal court cases, LaBerge said.
The International Organization of Standards in Switzerland sets guidelines for any type of profession that requires scientific precision, among them forensics work in police labs.
Denver's chemistry, DNA, fingerprinting, trace evidence and ballistics units met those ISO standards in 2005. In late July, the lab's final two units — those that handle crime scenes and video evidence — met those standards too.
Denver's is the second crime lab in the country to win approval of its forensic imaging unit, which scrubs audio, video and photos for clues. They produce the Crime Stopper images that generate tips from the public and isolate license plate numbers from grainy surveillance video, among other jobs.
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