Spokane County Sheriff Forensic Unit earns accreditation, new mobile crime unit

Deep below the Public Safety Building and behind several steel doors, evidence from some of Spokane County’s most serious crimes gets logged and carefully examined.

In one lab, latent fingerprints are made visible using super glue vapor and special lights. Across the hall, evidence stored on hard drives, cell phones and gaming consoles is uncovered as well. In another room, dozens of cold cases sit unsolved — the oldest dating back to 1954.

“Our job is to make sure we gather all the evidence and find everything so it’s documented appropriately and, if heaven forbid, it ends up being a cold case or goes unsolved for an amount of time, you can’t go back and recreate that,” said Forensic Unit Supervisor Lacey Miller.

Documenting scenes and collecting evidence is a painstaking process and unlike what’s portrayed on television shows, it takes a long time.

“If you’re just processing a vehicle or a bank robbery or something like that, it will be shorter,” Miller said. “But if someone’s dead, 4 hours is really short. So more typically we’re out there 5, 6, sometimes 8 [hours].”

Now, the forensic team has a new tool — a brand new mobile unit that can respond to any major crime at any time.

“It’s really cool. We were kind of outgrowing our old one,” Miller said.

The forensic unit has also earned an ANAB accreditation, a long and detailed process that began in early 2017. Only four other forensic agencies in Washington have the same accreditation, and Spokane County’s is the only agency accredited in digital evidence.

“It’s a pretty big deal, it’s pretty cool,” Miller said. “I’m proud of our guys.”

It’s not just a big deal for Miller and her team, but also for future crime victims and their loved ones.

The accreditation means the Spokane County Sheriff Forensic Unit is recognized for meeting international standards. The accreditation is valid until April of 2023, that’s when the forensic unit will need to show they meet or exceed those standards.

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