The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Crime Laboratory has International Program Accreditation as a Testing Laboratory from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). Within Hennepin County, the laboratory provides forensic services to more than 35 law enforcement agencies, the Minnesota State Patrol, and a number of state and federal law enforcement agencies.
For law enforcement agencies requesting the services listed below, forms are provided. Print the form and provide to the HCSO Crime Lab or provide to the crime lab personnel at the crime scene.
The laboratory is staffed by licensed peace officers, scientists, and civilians serving in the following specialized areas:
- Biology Section
- Crime Scene Section
- Evidence Section
- Firearm and Tool Mark Examination Section
- Latent Print Section
The HCSO Crime Laboratory Unit is one of six accredited crime laboratories in the State of Minnesota. The others are the MN BCA state laboratories located in St. Paul and Bemidji, the Minneapolis PD crime lab, the St. Paul PD crime lab, and the Tri-County Regional Forensic Laboratory.) In addition, at the HCSO Crime Lab, the Crime Scene Section, which operates 24/7, was the first full-time team of Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) in Minnesota to earn accreditation.
The laboratory places a strong emphasis on the investigation of property crimes. Over 50% of the crimes investigated by the laboratory are related to property crimes. The laboratory has been extremely successful in identifying property crime offenders through the use of forensic databases (particularly the Combined DNA Index System database, known as CODIS.)
The demand for the services of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office Crime Laboratory continues to grow. Advancements in technology (particularly in DNA analysis) and the laboratory’s focus on property crime investigations are two of the driving factors behind the increasing demand for forensic services from suburban Hennepin County law enforcement agencies.
The Biology/DNA Section is staffed by Forensic Scientists who have received extensive education and training to examine items of evidence, identify the presence of biological fluids such as blood, semen, or saliva, and perform forensic DNA analysis on these items.
The HCSO Crime Laboratory is one of only four crime laboratories in Minnesota that provide forensic DNA testing (the others include the two MN BCA labs and the Tri-County Regional Forensic Laboratory.)
The HCSO Crime Laboratory is one of many public law enforcement crime laboratories nationwide that participate in the FBI Combined DNA Index System - CODIS. CODIS allows the laboratory to compare biological evidence recovered at crime scenes to a database of DNA profiles that include the following:
- Convicted Offenders
- DNA Profiles of individuals convicted of a crime
- Forensic Samples
- Unknown DNA profiles developed from crime scene evidence such as semen stain or blood
- DNA profiles of arrested persons (if state law permits the collection of arrestee samples)
- Missing Persons
- DNA reference profiles from missing persons
- Unidentified Human Remains
- DNA profiles developed from unidentified human remains
- Biological Relatives of Missing Persons
- DNA profiles voluntarily contributed from relatives of missing persons
If certain upload criteria are met, CODIS database searches can be done on a local (LDIS), state (SDIS), or national level (NDIS).
CODIS generates investigative leads in cases where DNA evidence is recovered from the crime scene. Matches made among profiles in the Forensic Index can link crime scenes together; possibly identifying serial offenders. Based upon a match, law enforcement personnel from multiple jurisdictions can coordinate their respective investigations and share the leads they developed independently. Matches made between the Forensic and Offender Indexes can provide investigators with the identity of a suspect.
Crime Scene Section
The Crime Scene Section is staffed by Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs, who are deputies) and supervising Sergeants. The primary duties of the section include providing 24/7/365 crime scene processing services to the Sheriff’s Office, suburban Hennepin County law enforcement agencies, the Minnesota State Patrol, and a number of federal law enforcement agencies.
The CSIs assigned to the section are responsible for locating, collecting, and packaging evidence at crime scenes; photographing crime and accident scenes; and measuring, sketching and completing diagrams of crime scenes. CSIs also receive specialized training in bloodstain pattern analysis, shooting reconstruction, forensic mapping, and Panoscan.
The Evidence Section is staffed by Evidence Specialists who are responsible for the intake, secure storage, and disposal of evidence received by the laboratory.
The laboratory accepts evidence submissions Monday through Friday. Agencies must call ahead for submission appointments. This assists the staff in expediting the intake process and minimize wait times for other customers.
Firearm and Tool Mark Examination Section
The Firearm and Tool Mark Examination Section is staffed by Firearm Examiners. The primary responsibilities of the section include firearm examination, tool mark examination, and serial number restoration.
Latent Print Section
The Latent Print Section is staffed by Latent Print Examiners whose duties include the recovery of latent prints from items of evidence submitted for processing and the comparison and identification of latent prints to known persons.
The HCSO Crime Laboratory is one of the partner agencies participating in the Midwest Automated Fingerprint Identification Network (MAFIN). MAFIN is a shared regional database of fingerprints from South Dakota, Minnesota, and North Dakota. MAFIN allows the laboratory to compare fingerprint evidence recovered from crime scenes to a database of known fingerprints and palm prints. MAFIN searches can be conducted on a local, state, or national level (IAFIS).
The Latent Print Section uses a Motorola Printrak Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) terminal to link to MAFIN. MAFIN/AFIS enables speedy comparison of fingerprints and detects matching records under alias names for all fingerprint records among the three states. The MAFIN database also contains unknown latent prints left at crime scenes. As new fingerprint records are added to the system, they are automatically searched against these unidentified prints.