Houston Police Department
Crime Lab Division
Firearms | Forensic Biology | Toxicology | Health & Safety |Accreditation | Information & Events
Mission Statement: To receive, analyze and preserve physical evidence while adhering to the highest standards of quality, objectivity and ethics.
Forensic Biology: The Biology Section of the Houston Police Department Crime Laboratory consists of two disciplines, serological and DNA analysis.
- Serological testing identifies biological material, mainly blood and semen, using presumptive and confirmatory methods. Items can also be processed for possible contact DNA. Items submitted for analysis are collected from a wide range of offenses including burglaries, homicides, and sexual assaults. When biological material is detected, the specimen is preserved for DNA analysis.
- DNA: For those cases where serological evidence is identified, the items are analyzed by the DNA discipline to develop any unknown DNA profiles. Each DNA profile is then compared to reference samples collected from known individuals associated with the case in an effort to match an unknown profile to a known individual.
The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is a tool that enables the laboratory to exchange and compare DNA profiles for both known and unknown individuals on the state and national level.
Central Evidence Receiving (CER): The CER Section functions in a support role for the analytical sections of the laboratory. This section receives evidence, documents the associated information, provides storage and inventory of the evidence, ensures that evidence is made available in a timely manner when needed, and ultimately oversees the destruction of narcotic evidence. This section also facilitates the transfer of evidence to and from the HPD Property Room.
Controlled Substances: The focus of the Controlled Substances Section is to identify controlled substances or dangerous drugs as defined by Texas and Federal legislation in evidence submitted for analysis. Examples of these substances are marihuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, diverted prescription medications, and new emerging substances of abuse such as “bath salts” and “synthetic cannabinoids”. Individual submission may range from trace quantities to cases with a combined weight of tons.
Analysts within the section are responsible for providing expert testimony regarding the evidence submitted for various jurisdictions including Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, and the United States Federal Courts.
Firearms: The Firearms Section provides technical expertise in the analysis and interpretation of firearms-related evidence submitted by the Houston Police Department and the law enforcement community within the City of Houston metropolitan area.
Section personnel perform their duties both proactively and reactively. The proactive approach pertains to the section’s highly successful ballistic imaging program. Since its inception in 1999, section personnel have linked more than 2,500 investigations that were not previously known to be associated, making the HPD site one of the most successful ballistic imaging sites in the world.
On the reactive side, section personnel respond to requests for analysis from customers in the law enforcement and legal communities. When customers submit requests for the analysis of evidence such as firearms, fired bullets, cartridge cases, analysts work to meet the needs of the customer.
Quality Assurance: Binding all the scientific disciplines of the laboratory together is the Quality Assurance Section. An important goal of the Quality Assurance Section is to successfully implement a continuously improving and effective quality management system. This section provides an umbrella under which all of the accredited disciplines operate and works to ensure the laboratory achieves its objective: “To receive, analyze and preserve physical evidence while adhering to the highest standards of quality, objectivity and ethics.”
This section is responsible for maintaining the records associated with such things as accreditation compliance, quality system audits, training, proficiency testing, testimony monitoring and for proposing corrective or preventative actions when an area of concern is identified.
Toxicology: The discipline of Toxicology provides analysis for the presence of alcohol and other drugs in biological specimens submitted by law enforcement agencies in the Houston metropolitan area. Currently, the laboratory performs alcohol analysis for samples associated with driving under the influence, sexual assaults and other offenses.
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