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National Forensic Science Week Recognizes Trained and Talented Crime Laboratory Professionals

When a crime is committed, there’s often evidence left behind like a piece of clothing or maybe a weapon. Forensic Scientist Jessica Drager spends some workdays examining items collected at crime scenes to try to detect DNA from persons of interest. Other days, she’s assisting the technical team in researching new equipment or methods to improve how sexual assault cases are processed.

At home, she’s ‘mom,’ as well as PTO president three years running, fall baseball dugout coach and the first person to volunteer when help is needed.

“If you want to make your community the best, you have to give it your best,” said Drager, assigned to the Michigan State Police Northville Laboratory. “We are made to serve – in our careers and personal lives.  Putting effort into things that matter to my family, and my community, is a great use of my time and, hopefully, I’m setting a wonderful example for my own children.”

Keith LaMont manages the department’s Bridgeport Laboratory and is responsible for its daily operations and nearly 30 employees.  His duties can vary widely from meeting with criminal justice partners as the face of the laboratory to managing infrastructure projects within the building. 

“As a leader, I’ve intentionally participated in projects that better the communities we work in,” said LaMont. “In Saginaw, a number of our members participate in ‘1 Week, 1 Street,’ where we complete home repairs and make yard improvements. Sometimes these are areas of the city we’ve visited as part of a crime scene response.”

During the holidays, his team adopts a family who they’ve come into contact with professionally.

“This could be a child who has lost their mom or dad because of violence in a case that’s been adjudicated,” LaMont said. “We strive to lift up the new caregiver and help them experience something positive during a tragedy. These are our neighbors, and we want them to know we care.” 

“We have hundreds of stories like that, one for each of our nearly 300 employees,” said Jeff Nye, Director of the Forensic Science Division. “Our women and men are highly skilled. They excel professionally and equally as important, they value service to community both professionally and personally.”

National Forensic Science Week runs September 18 - 24 and recognizes the importance of crime laboratory professionals. The MSP Forensic Science Division (FSD) operates seven laboratories that are geographical distributed throughout the state, offering analysis in 11 disciplines and employing 288 individuals who are dedicated to the scientific analysis of evidence collected from crime scenes and providing expert testimony in criminal proceedings.

“Our members are extremely capable and productive in their respective forensic disciplines. I’m proud to say they are some of the best in the business. Many of our members serve on state and national boards advising and developing national and international standards for forensic science,” said Insp. John Bowen, Assistant Division Director responsible for laboratory operations.  “Further, not only do they help to solve crimes and make Michigan safer, but they are also frequently a key component in helping to exonerate the innocent.” 

The Forensic Science Division has been continuously accredited since 1984, and recently received accreditation in crime scene response.  MSP’s FSD remains one of only three accredited public forensic laboratory organizations in Michigan and the only organization accredited to crime scene response.

“Accreditation matters because we have to get it right one hundred percent of the time, and we are absolutely dedicated to continuous improvement,” said Insp. Ryan Larrison, Assistant Division Director responsible for Quality Assurance. “Accreditation ensures we are adhering to standards covering quality management, training, corrective actions, risk assessments and continuing education, as well as several other areas.”

With the MSP FSD’s commitment to high standards comes the assurance of a timely, transparent, and ethical response when a problem does emerge. 

In August, the MSP FSD halted all THC toxicology testing due to a technical issue in which samples containing Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, may be converted to Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, during the testing process, leading to potentially inaccurate test results.

“We take all issues seriously, and have always remained committed to a code of ethics and delivering on that with high integrity.  Science and technology is changing all the time. The public deserves accuracy, and when we fall short of that we’re committed to a timely and transparent response to correct the issue.  

“Our employees give their all to make Michigan a safer place for its residents and all of our families. We appreciate what they contribute and their unwavering dedication, Nye added”

To learn more about the MSP FSD and how you can join their team, visit their webpage