DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — It’s Forensic Science Week, and 2 NEWS is giving you an inside look at a facility that makes a huge impact in some of Ohio’s most difficult investigations.
The week aims to showcase the State Fire Marshal Forensic Laboratory’s value. That includes scientific examinations of fires, explosive incidents, hazardous situations and a variety of other criminal investigations.
Forensic science has long been a crucial tool in the pursuit of justice.
In 1973, Ohio became the first state in the nation to develop a forensic laboratory specializing in fire and explosive evidence, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. Since then, forensic science has continued to evolve.
“The new instruments that are smaller and quicker, they help us turn around evidence easier,” Chad Wissinger, Forensic Lab Bureau Chief, said. “Maybe give us a little bit more information about the chemicals and the things that we’re dealing with. So, technology will have a big bit to do with it.”
When it comes to ultimately solving cases using the scientific evidence, both the state fire marshal forensic lab and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation share a unique relationship.
“They have their scientific disciplines that they’re phenomenal at, and we just have some other scientific disciplines that we can just collaborate together to do what’s best for the evidence and for the case,” Hallie Dreyer, lab supervisor at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said.
When it’s time to use the lab, the step-by-step process is simple.
“Investigators are out there trying to determine the origin cause of those fires and explosions, and then they’ll collect evidence from the scene to help them understand what happened,” Wissinger said. “That’s when they’ll submit the evidence to us. And then we’ll try and analyze it with all our scientific equipment and knowledge and try and help them determine, you know, what is this?”
Being able to strike a balance between solving crimes and protecting individual rights is the overall goal for forensic labs.
“You know, that oversight and that knowledge can be really powerful,” Dreyer said. “To understanding victims’ rights and to understanding how the state crime lab and the State Fire Marshal’s Lab, and law enforcement in general, are working to protect Ohio citizens.”
Wissinger added that besides offering Ohioans a look into the lab, there is a constant outreach by speaking with high school and college students about forensic science.