Forensic Services Section
Forensic Identification Unit
The Vancouver Police Department's Forensic Identification Unit (FIU) has an authorized strength of 23 sworn police officers (one constable is a dedicated training officer) and two sergeants. Two civilian photolab technicians and one office assistant provide additional support for the Unit.
The primary function of the FIU is to assist patrol members and follow-up investigators with exhibit and scene examinations, with the goal of recognizing, locating, documenting, as well as collecting and processing of various types of potential evidence found therein.
The types of evidence include, but are not limited to, finger- and palm-prints, footwear impressions, tool marks, and various types of physical and potential trace evidence (eg. DNA).
FIU members are trained to locate evidence using systematic methods and processes. As an example, methods used to examine a scene range from a basic walk-through and critical visual examination of the complete scene, to complex and time consuming methods employing chemicals and alternate light sources (eg. laser). Whenever possible, evidence is documented in place and subsequently collected and preserved to allow for additional follow-up processing, if needed.
Some evidence is further examined and processed using the in-house facilities, equipment, and expertise. If necessary, evidence can be submitted to accredited outside laboratories or specialists for further processing and/or interpretation.
As a part of their duties, FIU members also prepare and present the documentation and evidence in courts and/or other proceedings (eg. Coroner’s Inquests), and are often called by the courts to give expert evidence in cases involving fingerprint and footwear identifications and comparisons.
Crime Scene Investigation Unit
The Crime Scene Investigation Unit (CSIU) takes calls involving break-and-enter and thefts-from-auto, and conducts basic forensic exams involving fingerprints, DNA and other physical evidence in order to identify suspects. The officers also provide security advice to business and homeowners.
The CSIU provides a valuable service enhancing the Department's ability to more readily identify property crime suspects and free up patrol members from break-ins and other low priority calls.
CSIU members' responsibilities include:
- assisting patrol in fully investigating residential and commercial break-ins and other property crime calls, including theft-from-autos and recovered stolen vehicles
- conducting basic forensic examination of the crime scenes for fingerprint and other physical evidence, including DNA collection
- providing digital photographic services to patrol for seized property, graffiti, crime scenes and victims of assault; CSIU members will assist patrol by covering members
at priority calls or taking lower priority calls
- providing Crime Prevention Through Environment Design (CPTED), target-hardening and security advice to businesses and homeowners
- liaising with district analysts, Property Crime, Anti-Fencing, Identity Theft and Chronic Offender investigators with crime trend information or potential suspect evidence
- assisting the Forensic Identification Unit with cases when required
Forensic Firearm &Toolmark Unit
The Crime Detection Laboratory was originally established in 1947 as part of the Vancouver Police Department Bureau of Science and was tasked with the forensic examination of weapons and tools. Now known as the Forensic Firearm and Toolmark Unit, the Vancouver Police Department is one of only two municipal police forces in Canada that have this expertise in-house, the rest relying on the services of provincial or federal laboratories.
The Forensic Firearm & Toolmark Unit today provides the following analyses for investigations and courtroom testimony:
- Firearms and Ammunition - any examination concerning firearm and ammunition function, to facilitate the charging of a suspect with the correct crimes
- Firearm Identification – the identification of bullets and cartridge cases back to the individual firearm from which they were fired to determine the weapon used in the commission of a crime
- Wound Examination and Range Determination - autopsy attendance to determine exit/entrance wounds and to recover evidence needed for range of gunshot discharge determination to assist the pathologist, and to help investigators understand a crime scene
- Trajectory Analysis - reconstruction of shooting incidents scenes using lasers and other techniques
- Toolmarks – the identification of toolmarks or impressions left by suspect tools in the commission of an offence to the individual tool that created them (examples include: matching knives to stab marks in bone, cartilage or vehicle tires, matching bolt cutters to cut padlocks, or pry bars to window or door frames)
- Physical Matching - the matching of broken materials to determine whether or not they were at one time one piece (examples include: broken glass, broken knives or tools)
- Serial Number Restoration – the recovery of obliterated numbers and/or letters on firearms, bicycles, stereos, etc., for tracing or proving ownership
BC AFIS Unit
BC AFIS was established in 1989 as a joint forces operation equally funded and staffed by Vancouver Police civilian employees and RCMP civilian employees.
Our main responsibilities include:
- establishing the identity of subjects charged with indictable or dual offences
- computerized searching of crime scene fingerprints for police departments and RCMP detachments in British Columbia and Yukon Territory
- manual and computerized searching for identity of unknown deceased persons
- providing expert testimony for the Vancouver Police Department when prisoners dispute their identity
Technological Crime Unit
The Vancouver Police Department Technological Crime Unit (TCU) is composed of the Digital Forensic Lab (DFL) and the Internet Investigations Team (IIT).
The TCU is solely responsible for conducting all digital and cellular forensic examination for investigative units within the VPD. The Digital Forensic Lab provides specialized technical investigative support and assistance to all members in the areas of computers, digital storage, digital data recovery and cellular device forensic examinations.
The Internet Investigations Team provides specialized technical investigative support and assistance to all members in the areas of Internet investigative techniques and open source intelligence gathering. Sex abuse internet investigations are handled by other sections within the VPD.
Members of the Technological Crime Unit are called upon to provide expert testimony in court cases and have been declared experts in their fields by both Provincial and Supreme Court level. The Unit does not deal directly with the public on investigations but supports the primary investigator on cases.
Forensic Video Unit
The Vancouver Police Department Forensic Video Unit (FVU) is solely responsible for conducting all tape and digital forensic examination of video for investigative units within the VPD.
The Unit provides specialized technical investigative support and assistance to all members in the areas of surveillance video systems, video data storage, and video data recovery examinations.
Members of the FVU are called upon to provide expert testimony in court cases and have been declared experts in their fields by both Provincial and Supreme Court levels. The Unit does not deal directly with the public on investigations but supports the primary investigator on cases.