$493,322 Federal Earmark Helping SEMO Regional Crime Lab

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Sept. 21, 2005 – The SEMO Regional Crime Lab received a $493,322 federal earmark today from the National Institute of Justice that will allow it to renovate additional space adjacent to the laboratory and expand its capabilities to better serve law enforcement agencies in the southeast Missouri region, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond.

Pam Johnson, director of the SEMO Regional Crime Lab, said the new funds will be used to renovate unfinished space at the south end of the lab for the Southeast Law Enforcement Academy and to install a bullet trap in the lab’s firing range to enhance firearm analysis capability.

“The Southeast Missouri Crime Laboratory is a vital partner in helping regional law enforcement put criminals behind bars rather then preying our streets and neighborhoods,” stated Senator Kit Bond.  “These new federal funds will provide the state-of-the-art equipment and facility infrastructure the laboratory’s dedicated staff needs to better serve regional law enforcement in their important mission in southeast Missouri.”  

The Academy, which is in its 18th year, provides basic and continuing education for area law enforcement agencies. Each year, up to 100 law enforcement personnel are trained through the Academy and hundreds participate in continuing education courses. Over the years, more than 1,000 law enforcement personnel have been trained by the Academy.

The Academy is currently housed in Academic Hall on the Southeast campus, and training is held in various buildings across the campus.

“They will now have a permanent home all in one place,” Johnson said.

Mike Brown, director of the Law Enforcement Academy, said the Academy’s Firearms Training Simulator has been in Pacific Hall for many years. He said the Academy is only able to use the simulator on nights and weekends because it is noisy, and nearby classrooms can hear the simulation of shots being fired, sirens and people yelling.   

“I’m really looking forward to having a permanent home,” he said. “The chance to have some space to move into will mean a lot to area agencies when they come to town. This sends a message to southeast Missouri that the University is committed to meeting the needs of various agencies. We are very grateful for Senator Bond’s assistance.”

Smith DeLine, a member of the SEMO Regional Crime Lab Advisory Board, said, “That’s something we had worked towards for several years. They (the Law Enforcement Academy) were shackled by the fact that they really didn’t have a place to call their own. This is going to be a tremendous asset to law enforcement and the community as a whole.”

K&K Construction and Mechanical of Advance, Mo., has been selected as the mechanical contractor, according to Carolyn Figliolo, project manager with Southeast’s Facilities Management. She says mechanical work is under way and is expected to be completed by December.

Brown said he hopes classes will be held in the new 6,318-square-foot space beginning next spring. The Academy space will feature a weapons training simulator, a classroom, a defensive tactics area and offices. Johnson said the new Academy space will feature an automotive bay on the far south side of the building, where trainees can learn stop and search techniques. The Crime Lab also will be able to use the automotive bay for processing vehicles when they become evidence in a crime scene.

In addition to new facilities for the Law Enforcement Academy, the federal funds also will be used to install a bullet trap in the lab’s firing range. This will allow the lab to perform indoor distance evaluation.

 “Anything to do with the analysis of firearms is very important,” DeLine said. “The fact that we can do this now is wonderful.”

Johnson said the addition of this new equipment and the replacement of other equipment is a step towards the lab seeking accreditation by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board.

Eventually, Johnson said, the building will house the SEMO Regional Crime Lab, the Law Enforcement Academy, an environmental testing facility and a forensic pathology lab all under one roof.

“It’s a great opportunity to create a one-stop law enforcement shopping environment,” Brown said. The federal earmark comes from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), an arm of the Department of Justice that deals with science and technology (forensic science). U.S. Sen. Bond previously announced additional federal earmarks totaling $1.98 million from NIJ to remodel and relocate to its current facility at 122 S. Ellis.

The new state-of-the-art SEMO Regional Crime Lab was dedicated in September 2003. The new lab is housed in the Tlapek Building, a former warehouse owned by the University. The lab previously was located in a small house along Henderson Street on the Southeast Missouri  campus.

“Without the contributions Senator Bond has made for the Law Enforcement Center, I’m not sure the Crime Lab could have continued in its former facility,” Johnson said. “The technology we use requires true lab space. We are very grateful to him. His commitment to this project has been tremendous.”

The new lab is situated in about 8,000 square feet of space, up from about 2,000 square feet in its previous location. The lab provides testing for drugs, firearms examinations, blood/body fluids, serology, trace evidence, arson, fingerprints, alcohol in blood, urine toxicology and DNA. The SEMO Regional Crime Lab is vital to the law enforcement community in a 20-county service region. It currently serves about 90 different law enforcement agencies.

Johnson said that thanks to the NIJ earmarks, in addition to about a dozen grants, the facility on Ellis Street has been renovated and equipment upgraded so more cases can be processed in a more efficient manner. In its former facility, about one or two fingerprint cases could be processed at once. Now, about 10 to 15 cases can be processed at the same time in a Super Glue Fuming Cabinet.