ISP Forensic Services History
The unit had its beginnings in 1963 when the Division of Laboratories in the Department of Health established an analytical unit for the analysis of blood and breath alcohol for the Idaho State Police. In 1968, the state legislature funded a drug identification laboratory. Administratively, the lab was in the Board of Pharmacy but was physically housed in the State Health Lab. The Health Lab also provided toxicology services.
These services coalesced into one unit called the Forensic Section after Robert Dews was hired in 1972. Mr. Dews had experience in other areas of forensic analysis. Under his leadership, the Boise laboratory at the Health Lab on Old Penitentiary Road expanded into other forensic disciplines such as trace, serology, and firearms. Testing of breath alcohol samples and blood alcohol was performed in Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Twin Falls. However, by approximately 1982, the Forensic Section had operations only in the three locations that currently provide service; Boise/Meridian, Coeur d’Alene, and Pocatello. All three laboratories initially provided breath and blood analysis for the concentration of alcohol.
The Forensic Section was transferred to the Department of Law Enforcement from the Bureau of Laboratories in the Department of Health and Welfare July 1, 1988.
The Boise area laboratory moved from its location on Old Penitentiary Road to the Idaho State Police campus in Meridian when that complex was completed in 1994. The Meridian facility has been remodeled several times to accommodate more disciplines and more analysts. The Meridian laboratory began offering DNA examinations for DQA1 and the polymarker loci in April 1998. In 1996, a law was passed which authorized the creation of a database for the retention of DNA profiles of offenders convicted of specific crimes such as rape, homicide, etc. ISP Forensic Services began collecting those samples in 2000.
In 1974, the Coeur d’Alene laboratory began to offer drug analysis to law enforcement agencies in the northern part of the state as well as the alcohol examinations. The laboratory moved out of its facility in the Health Laboratory in February 1995, to a location at 1000 Hubbard as part of the Department of Law Enforcement. The laboratory moved again in 2009 to the new ISP 1 Linda Huff combined facility on Wilbur Road.
By 1974, the Pocatello laboratory was staffed with two analysts who provided examinations in controlled substances, blood alcohol and breath alcohol. In 1989, the laboratory moved to a much larger facility at 209 E. Lewis as part of the Department of Law Enforcement.
All three laboratories that are a part of ISP Forensic Services sought and obtained accreditation with the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) in 1987. The laboratories have maintained that accreditation up to the present. The laboratory system was accredited under the ISO 17025:2005 standards with ASCLD/LAB in 2007, and continues with that accreditation.
The name of the Department changed to Idaho State Police July 1, 1999 and the Bureau of Forensic Services became ISP Forensic Services. In addition, the Identification Section of the Bureau of Criminal Identification was transferred to Forensic Services. The unit provides latent print examinations and supports the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
In a continuing quest to meet national quality standards, many of the technical staff members have been certified by the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC), International Association for Identification as Certified Latent Print Examiners (CPLE), or by the International Association for Identification as Certified Crime Scene Investigators (CCSI). Forensic Services has five members of The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD), and two members of The Association of Forensic Quality Assurance Managers (AFQAM). Forensic Services staff are members of many professional organizations including, The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), The Northwest Association of Forensic Scientists (NWAFS), The Clandestine Laboratory Investigating Chemists Association (CLIC), The International Association for Identification (IAI), The Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT), The Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE), and The Pacific Northwest Division of the International Association for Identification (PNWD-IAI).
The laboratory began with one part-time employee in 1963 and has grown to 39 full or part time employees in 2013. Besides being a full service forensic laboratory system, ISP Forensic Services provides training to state and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and hospital personnel. The coming years will see ISP Forensic Services continue to contribute fair and impartial scientific analysis to the criminal justice system. Incorporation of improved analytical methods and continuing quality assurance programs will assure the perpetuation of high standards currently maintained by the unit.