The Plymouth County Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI,
helps local police with technical aspects of their investigations.
BCI Deputies work in the field collecting evidence and taking
photographs and fingerprints at crime scenes and traffic accidents.
local police at crime and accident scenes, most often by taking
photographs and gathering forensic evidence. Annually, BCI field
deputies perform over 10,000 crime scene investigations at the
request of police departments throughout Plymouth County.
Department is equipped to handle the entire crime scene process
from investigation, preparation, analysis and identification.
Hair and blood samples for DNA testing can be prepared and are
sent off-site for testing.
Deputy Kevin Briggs describe the gear needed to process crime
At its laboratory
in Plymouth, BCI processes and analyzes fingerprints and other
evidence. The majority of the investigations are conducted in
Plymouth County, but BCI doesn't stop there. It has assisted law
enforcement agencies outside the county such as the State Police,
FBI, Barnstable County, Norfolk County and Bristol County. These
agencies look to BCI for the technical expertise necessary for
Foley is only one of five certified fingerprint experts in New
England, "When we get a match it's a rewarding feeling. Most
of the time, victims are small business owners or home owners
who have been broken into... they are very appreciative of what
we've been able to do for them."
One of the
primary tools used in the investigation process is the Automated
Fingerprint Identification System. AFIS contains over 200,000
fingerprint cards. The sophisticated system can determine if latent
fingerprints from a crime scene match those of any individual
arrested in Plymouth County since the early 1980's. Similarly,
the AFIS system can determine if the fingerprints of someone arrested
for the first time match any of the unidentified latent prints
in its database.
BCI also reviews
video images taken by bank and store cameras to analyze on-site.
The video system can zoom in on suspects, license plates, and
other surroundings to help police build a case.
HEAT UNIT - In 2005, the
Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department's High-Tech Evidence
Analysis Team or HEAT was established. The HEAT lab collaborates
with local, state and federal agencies in order to forensically
analyze electronic devices seized as part of an investigation..
portions of one reporter’s take on BCI...
County BCI unit captures evidence”
By Andria Farrell of the Duxbury Reporter
Thu May 15, 2008
Once, criminals could be identified using the black ink across
their fingers. Now, a laser scanner the size of a Big Mac container
— which replaced one the size of a large vending machine
— captures every crevice of their fingers.
inside the administration building of the Plymouth County Sheriff’s
Department is the departments “hidden gem” —
the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. The bureau’s leader,
BCI director Bob Foley, is the “Yoda” of BCI, bureau
spokesman John Birtwell said.
have only seen him testify once, but he is like the voice of God
when he gets up there,” Birtwell said. “He knows it
all very well.”
used to investigate a crime has changed since Foley began. The
black ink fingerprints studied under a magnifying glass are now
digitally captured, routed onto a computer screen, scanned through
thousands of criminals for points of match and then magnified
100 times to pinpoint each matching curve and line in a print.
The grainy images from a digital camera are considered a blessing
in the technology-savvy department.
said fingerprints have become a method of the 20th century, as
DNA becomes the 21st-century method of identification. However,
DNA is not foolproof because of the risk of contamination and
the ability to gather the evidence at the crime scene. On the
other hand, analyzing a fingerprint through the computer database
is the tried-and-true method, Birtwell said.
some jury trials, at least in terms of the fingerprints, more
of the public is familiar with and aware of what a fingerprint
is. Good science is a powerful tool for a jury to grasp,”
Birtwell said. “Television brought a new set of rules to
the process; people don’t want to rely on the spoken word
from a person. They want the science portion; that is tangible.”
of green masking tape, pinned on all four corners, lay sticky-side
up in a rectangular Petri dish-like container. A black dusty powder
thinly coats the adhesive on the tape, revealing small circular
curves that get larger toward the edges — the outline of
fingerprints. The fingerprints belong to criminals who taped up
hostages in a robbery. It sounds like something from “Law
and Order” creator Dick Wolf, but this investigation is
much closer to home, securely locked inside the BCI unit in Plymouth.
the Plymouth BCI did more than 10,000 forensic crime scene investigations.
Behind every crime and accident in Plymouth County, and in some
cases beyond, the BCI unit investigates the evidence and provides
behind-the-scenes support to the local police departments. Plymouth
BCI also assists law enforcement agencies outside the county such
as the State Police, FBI, Barnstable County, Norfolk County and
try and keep out of the limelight. It is more important we do
our job and give credit where credit is due — the local
police departments,” BCI Capt. Scott Petersen said. “We
are a support agency designed to support local law enforcement
is one of only five certified fingerprint experts in New England.
He is also certified in handwriting analysis, given many lectures
on fingerprint investigation and testified in major crime cases.
have the best, most technically advanced equipment out there,
and together with the human element, Bob provides nationally renowned
expertise to the agency,” Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph
era, when criminals are trying to cut or burn off their fingerprints,
McDonald said fingerprint identification is a huge tool in identifying
someone claiming to be someone else. Fingerprints have helped
turn routine traffic stops into the apprehension of a suspect
in a murder from another state or country.
the primary tools used in investigating a crime scene is the Automated
Fingerprint Identification System, which currently has more than
200,000 criminals on file. The system scans more than 200,000
fingerprints, on 10 fingers for each print deposit, and makes
a match within 20 seconds, Foley said. A fingerprint generally
needs at least eight points of match, but Foley said the standard
is between 10 to 12 points. Although everything is matched by
computer database, Foley said it is very important that a human
eye verify every print for accuracy.
other person can have those fingerprints,” Foley said. “You
can identify a person is John Doe verified by a fingerprint; a
person can be cleared by a fingerprint.”
unit is much more than fingerprint analysis; the unit also consists
of crime lab investigations, video imaging, K-9, roadside and
accident crime investigators and HEAT (High Technology Evidence
Analysis Team). The HEAT portion of BCI was responsible for capturing
several sexual predators in 2006 during Operation Trenchcoat.
office, filled with seized computers and a wall featuring Trenchcoat
predators like former Plymouth Selectman Sean Dodgson, resembles
an office for a computer repair technician. Undercover HEAT investigators
go online posing as children, and Petersen said, like any crime
scene, preserving the evidence is crucial. With one wrong move,
everything captured on the computer’s hard drive can be
lost. To prosecute an Internet predator, the physical evidence
is hidden in bytes and coding.
are things that can destroy a case: losing evidence, destroying
evidence and breaking or contaminating evidence,” Foley
the hall from high-tech computer scanners and a database of criminals,
sealed brown paper bags, dust clouds of black soot and large blush
brushes provide the physical pudding for the digital match. The
BCI unit evolved from black-and-white still photos to digital
images and inky fingerprints to scanned finger imprints, yet without
the basics of crime lab, the technology is nonexistent.