Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

From Machine Guns to Marijuana, KBI's New Lab Improves Quantity and Quality

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

From Machine Guns to Marijuana, KBI's New Lab Improves Quantity and Quality

Article excerpt

Peering through the smudgeless glass of a firearm room Friday at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's new Forensic Science Center, assistant director T.L. Price pointed to a fully automatic machine gun.

"That came out of a crawl space in western Kansas, in case we overthrow the government," he said with a laugh.

"I don't know whether I ever met that constituent or not," quipped U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran in response.

On one side of the firearm room is a 500-gallon water

tank used for test-firing guns in a way that leaves bullets pristine. On another side is a firing range for studying gunpowder patterns.

During a tour of the 100,000-square-foot facility that opened last autumn, Price proudly showed Moran and reporters the immaculate laboratories and classrooms on Washburn University's campus.

In one room, a KBI technician combed through a half-dozen large bags of marijuana. In another, vials of forensic evidence awaited testing in the toxicology room. In a small conference area, a monitor will soon allow KBI experts to testify via teleconference.

"We hope this is a room that will get a lot of use in the future," Price told Moran, explaining the 3,500 subpoenas KBI's scientists respond to each year.

At each stop, Price contrasted the Forensic Science Center with KBI's former lab, a cramped Depression-era basement in a former Topeka high school. Subpoenas, for example, can now be answered in sanitized office rooms separate from evidence rooms. In the past, those rooms were one and the same.

Multiple rooms at the Forensic Science Center are set aside for the two fastest-growing areas of forensic science: DNA and digital evidence. An isolation room for handling human remains is an asset KBI was without in its old facilities, now allowing the bureau to handle body parts "with the dignity they deserve," Price said.

Seventy scientists are currently working at the Forensic Science Center, a statistic the bureau would like to see increase to 108. Evidence has taken as long as 300 days for the KBI to process, a statistic the bureau would like to see decrease to 60.

"It was a capacity issue in the past," Price told Moran. …

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