Trooper Rob: Forensic technicians act as behind-the-scenes heroesPublished 4:33pm Thursday, November 1, 2012
By Rob Herbstreith, Michigan State Police Niles Post
“Criminals should fear the scientists who serve in our Forensic Science Division just as much as our uniformed officers. For it is the men and women of the Forensic Science Division who work behind the scene, quietly and without great fanfare, who help solve crimes and put criminals behind bars.“
This is a quote from Col. Michael D. Robinson, retired director of the MSP. It is posted in the lobby of the MSP Grand Rapids Lab. It stands as a reminder of the heroes in forensic zcience. As a crime scene technician, I have had the honor and privilege to work side by side with the experts from our labs. The training I have received from them, along with the awesome experience I have gathered from their expertise, has made my crime scene investigations better.
The popular television shows, such as “CSI,” “CSI Miami,” “CSI NY” and “NCIS” have brought the behind-the-scenes of criminal investigation to the forefront. I would like to stress for those who are fans of the programs to remember the shows are entertainment, not the real life of a CSI.
The tools, procedures and evidence are real, but unfortunately, we aren’t solving most serious crimes in 48 minutes.
The computer programs such as AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System), CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System) and IBIS (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) are real and valuable tools to the crime-fighting world. We cannot, however, get most DNA results in 30 seconds as they do on the TV shows.
With technology, we are almost to the point where there is no such thing as a “perfect crime.”
Many have tried to commit a crime and walk away from it, but with forensic science, justice is served.
Not every crime involves forensics. I have worked many scenes, and it was the investigative skills and techniques of the investigators that solve the crime. Forensics can prove or disprove stories from the victims, suspects or witnesses. The fingerprint doesn’t lie. There are many stories that can be told that involve the use of science to solve the crime.
There are just as many stories where the investigative skills of all involved solved the crime.
I visited the Lansing lab earlier this week and saw many old friends and met new expert witnesses in their field. A tour of the newest lab, again, is an asset to my crime scene skills. I know how to process items for forensic evidence, but it’s also very helpful knowing where this evidence is going, what is going to be done with it and what this evidence can tell me. The Lansing lab is our Forensic Science Headquarters. In our southwest corner of Michigan, we use the Grand Rapids Lab. Our MSP Forensic Labs recently received the national accreditation that makes our lab system one of the best state lab systems in the nation, second only to the FBI.
In the Line of Duty
On Aug. 27, 1994, Tpr. Manuel “Manny” Fields, 34, reported for duty to the Jackson Post for a special overtime assignment. He had just returned from temporary duty as an instructor at the 109th Recruit Academy and was preparing to go back for the 110th Academy.
Just before 6 p.m., Tpr. Fields stopped a vehicle for an unknown traffic violation on I-94 just east of US-127. The driver gave him the driver’s license and registration. Tpr. Fields asked for the proof of insurance. The driver began going through the glove box. Tpr. Fields was watching the action and the other five passengers, to ensure no weapon was seen. Just then, a westbound vehicle driven by Harriet Syze, 70, of Flint, crossed the white fog line on the north shoulder and struck the front corner of the patrol vehicle. She also struck the left rear corner of the stopped vehicle, scraping along the driver’s side where she struck Tpr. Fields.
The impact threw him on the hood of her car, cracking the windshield. As she pulled back into the driving lanes, Tpr. Fields’ body skidded about 170 feet from the impact.
Many citizens came to Tpr. Fields’ aid, however, he was pronounced dead at the scene from massive injuries. Syze continued to her sister’s residence in Jackson where she called police to report that she believed she was involved in a collision with a road sign. She was subsequently charged with negligent homicide.
Tpr. Manny Fields, who earned a criminal justice degree from Wayne State University prior to joining the MSP on April 6, 1986, was assigned to the Jackson Post after MSP graduation. He was posthumously awarded the Memorial Medal and is buried in Jackson. He was the 46th MSP trooper to be killed in the line of duty.