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. In 2020, ISPFS added an office modular work trailer adjacent to the back of the laboratory to house the DNA section offices.  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.  ISPFS began performing Short Tandem Repeat (STR) DNA analysis in 2002 and began uploading to the National DNA Index System (NDIS) of the COmbined DNA Index System (CODIS).

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 District 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.  This building was originally constructed as Pocatello City Hall. The Pocatello laboratory moved to the newly constructed ISP District 5 combined facility at 5255 S. 5th Avenue in 2017.

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. ISP was provided with certificates 40, 41, and 42 for the laboratories, indicating that the labs were the 40th, 41st, and 42nd forensic labs in the country accredited under this program. The laboratories  maintained that accreditation until 2007. The laboratory system was accredited under the ISO 17025:2005 standards with ASCLD/LAB in 2007, and after a brief transition to the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) when they merged with ASCLD/LAB, ISPFS was accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) starting in 2017.  ISPFS updated to the ISO 17025:2017 standards with A2LA in 2020 and maintain that accreditation currently.

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 supported the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) that became the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) that is now the Multimodal Biometric Identification System (MBIS).  Starting in 2015, ISPFS developed the first sexual assault kit policy working group in the state.  The group became the Idaho Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (ISAKI) in 2017.  In 2019, ISPFS added a new nurse position to become the Idaho Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner/ Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator.  Initially funded as a contractor on federal STOP funds, ISPFS received a state position for the SANE/SART Coordinator in 2020.  ISPFS added Breath Alcohol Instrument Calibration as an accredited discipline in 2021.

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), American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT), 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 members of The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD), and 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 Association of Forensic DNA Analysts and Administrators (AFDAA), The California Association of Criminalists (CAC), 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 grew to 39 full or part time employees by 2013.  In 2021, ISPFS grew to 55 employees. 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.

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