POCATELLO, Idaho - "Prosecute the guilty, protect the innocent and protect the victims," said Idaho State Police Division 5 Captain Eric Dayley. For him, every aspect of law enforcement is vital to the process of justice, and justice isn't limited to departments.
"It's the Idaho State Forensics Laboratory, but they don't just do forensic analyses for the Idaho State Police," Dayley said. "They do it for the local police, the Sheriff's departments – they do it for everyone."
And now that the ISP has international accreditation of all three labs in the state, Dayley says they're even more proud of their team. One member of the Pocatello forensics team, Delisa Downey, said this job was very appealing to her.
"I actually held out for this job," Downey said in an interview Friday. "I really wanted to work for a lab that was accredited by ASCLD/LAB."
The ASCLD/LAB is the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board, and they have very stringent quality requirements. Downey says a lot of quality comes from finding the right balance of accuracy and speed.
For example, she discussed the process of testing urine for marijuana, a process she says takes a lot more time than the TV shows depict.
She said TV shows like CSI and NCIS really glamorize the forensic scientist job. However, Downey said there is a real life effect because of those TV shows, called the CSI effect.
"It just describes the effect of the show not only on us but on juror's perceptions on what we do," Downey said.
One aspect of the job is testifying in court about the findings in the lab. Downey said jurors expect DNA tests in every court case, but they don't realize it's not always necessary.
Downey also said it takes a very detail-oriented person to be a forensic scientist, and do some research to find the facts behind the fictional depiction.
"I don't have a badge, I certainly don't drive a hummer and wear four-inch spiked heels to crime scenes," Downey said. "It's an exciting field but it definitely takes a certain personality type."
The accreditation process occurs every five years. The state labs have been accredited since 1987.