Forensic lab

Free guide to Setting up a forensic laboratory

The need to successfully and professionally carry out forensic analysis of crime incidents has never made more sense than now. This has led to a rise in the need for information regarding the establishment and management of computer forensic laboratories to help facilitated investigations. Construction and establishment of a forensics lab is obviously a sophisticated project. Design considerations include special concern to aspects revolving around environmental health, evidence security, hazardous material, evidence preservation, operational efficiency, as well as budgetary concerns. This guide focuses on a specific number of employees in my forensic lab and their respective duties, budget planning, and laboratory equipment as well as certification required.

Employees and their duties

A Forensics lab manager

Duties will include managing employees as well as all administrative or operational functions within the forensics laboratory and other functions such as supervision of days’ work, addressing agency procedures, and delivering general reports regarding the laboratory operations.

Scientists

The five scientists will each cover a specific area in the laboratory. Digital and multimedia section, Biological material, firearms and tool marks, drugs and precursors and fire and explosions. Their duties will be to provide the necessary oversight on all analytical procedures, give the most appropriate steps for analysis such as contingencies and give an overall conclusive and evidence-backed result. Where necessary, they shall be required to explain these results when presenting pieces of evidence in legal proceedings.

Lab technicians

There will be one lab technician for every section and will be tasked with collecting pieces of evidence from crime scenes, bringing them to the forensic lab, and using knowledgeable analytical skills to carry out analysis on provided samples.

Laboratory equipment budget planning

There will be three vital pillars within the lab budget comprising of personal costs, supplies, and consumables as well as major laboratory equipment. This will include costs such as traveling and accommodation and salaries and allowances. Going forward this will depend on the growth of the lab in terms of size and personnel. Under this initial plan of eleven employees, the budget allocated to this section will largely depend on traveling and accommodation costs since the salaries will be fixed. The approximate budget for this section will be $250,000 annually.

 For consumables and supplies, this will be done as soon as the stock gets depleted or some material expires. This mainly revolves around the daily lab operations costs and might vary according to the number of employees as well as duties performed ideally, costs on tubes, gloves, cell culture supplies, and pipette tips could amount to $12000 annually. Furthermore, consumable supplies like enzymes, antibodies, and PCR kits would strain this budget further. These supplies could be stored for longer periods thus could be purchased in bulk and stocked. The budget for this section is approximately $18000 annually.

For the laboratory equipment, most equipment shall be shared during the first year of operation, and arrangements will be made to acquire more equipment as the laboratory expands. The main resources that will be required during the first year will include one centrifuge, one refrigerator, and one lab shaker. There will also be one PCR machine, one 3dimensional printer, one regular printer, twelve computers, and one server. There will be additional costs for lab networking including cabling, switches, and router and PABX costs. Most of these products will be acquired on hire purchase hence paid for as the lab progresses using revenue generated from the lab.

Certificate/training plan

Over time, lab employees will be required to acquire the necessary training. Below are the main areas of certification and training for the lab employees highlighted above.

Lab manager

  1. High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA)
  2. Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)

Scientists

  1. Computer Crime Investigator, Basic and Advanced Level
  2. Electronic Evidence Collection Specialist (CEECS)
  3. SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security (SANS) Institute

Lab technicians

  1. Computer Technology Investigators Network (CTIN)
  2. SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security (SANS) Institute
  3. Certified Computer Crime Investigator, Basic Level
  4. Certified Computer Forensic Technician, Basic and Advanced Level
  5. Certified Electronic Evidence Collection Specialist (CEECS)
  6. Certified Forensic Computer Examiners (CFCEs)

Most of these certifications are expensive thus the lab will collectively train and certify its employees within the lab whereby specialists will be called to carry out seminars on the highlighted training. The training and certifications for scientists and lab technicians are not mandatory to every employee in the given section, employees shall only receive training and certifications on areas of specialization. It should also be noted that each employee shall be required to first have the required skills to carry out their respective duties and this training and certifications shall only serve to broaden their knowledge and skill levels.

The forensic lab set up will be detrimental in determining its performance and success rate. The above highlighted plan gives it the requisite capacity to tackle basic forensic analysis. The laboratory will therefore use some of its revenues within the first five years to improve its capacity by acquiring more equipment, hiring more staff and increase its laboratory space gradually.