Forensic Services Section

The Santa Ana Police Department Forensic Services Section counts on a close-knit team of experts trained in evidence identification, documentation, collection and preservation.  The team includes experienced and highly motivated crime scene, firearms, tool mark impression, fingerprint, and photography specialists.  Together, they respond to and process evidence collected from crime scenes throughout the city.

Crime Scene Investigations works 24-hours per-day, seven days-per-week, responding to calls for service ranging from burglary to homicide.  Responsibilities include examining crime scenes, scene photography, latent fingerprint processing, trajectory analysis, blood stain pattern interpretation, evidence collection and preservation; shoe and tire print impression documentation and casting, and expert court room testimony.

The Santa Ana Police Department Forensic Services Firearms Unit has consistently been ranked in the top ten in nation for ballistic “cold hits;” confirmed firearms links between cases that were previously not known to be related.  With one of the few Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms sponsored IBIS (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) stations within the county, Santa Ana Police Department Forensic Services Firearms Unit has had tremendous success in linking crime scene evidence between cases within the city and state.  The police department utilizes one full-time examiner, several part-time specialists, and our crime scene investigators that are cross-trained in this specialty in order to work cases quickly and efficiently.

Thanks in part to their professionalism and expertise, the reputation of the Forensic Services Section extends far beyond the borders of Santa Ana. Consequently, our Forensic Services personnel routinely perform evidence examinations for numerous local, state and federal agencies.

Forensic Services Unit




Q: How can I learn about Forensic Science?

Reading is a wonderful place to start.  There are numerous good books on the market as well as some very informative websites that routinely update their sites with the latest forensic news.  Examples of such websites include:

Q: How do I become a Forensic Specialist?

Although some law enforcement agencies do not require education beyond a high school diploma, most hire candidates who possess at least a bachelor’s degree.  Many colleges and universities offer certificate courses, as well as specific degrees in Criminalistics or Forensic Science.  There are many reputable forensic organizations open to interested students including The International Association for Identification and The Southern California Association of Fingerprint Officers (SCAFO).

Q: Is it really like the show "CSI"?

Crime Scene Investigators on the show solve the crime at hand in about forty-seven minutes (not counting commercials).  Real life forensic investigations take days, weeks and sometimes years to solve.  Although much of the equipment on the show is very real and used quite frequently in crime labs, it usually takes multiple specialists, with designated areas of expertise, to operate most of the equipment.

Q: Is the Santa Ana Police Department Forensic Services Section a full service lab?

No. We rely on the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab for DNA analysis, toxicology, narcotic analysis, and gun shot residue evaluation.

Q: Why do you collect DNA and fingerprint exemplars from victims?
A: If Santa Ana Police Department personnel are able to collect fingerprints and/or biological (DNA) evidence from a crime scene, it is imperative to eliminate all legitimate sources left behind.  This will assist in reducing the time it takes to process the collected evidence, and potentially identify a suspect. 
Q: If I am a victim of a crime, how do I preserve evidence of a crime before you get here?

Our highly-trained Forensic Services Section, including our experienced Crime Scene Investigation Unit, strives to get the best results from our investigative work.  If you are a victim a crime, there are some steps you can take that will assist in preserving evidence. 

Here is a checklist to help ensure that evidence is not destroyed prior to police response.

  1. If possible, leave things as they are.  If anything has to be handled, keep this to a minimum and do not clean up.  Do not touch what you do not have to.
  2. Leave weapons/tools left behind, etc. where they are.  If you must handle/move an item for safety or other concerns, minimize the amount of area you touch.  This will help preserve potential evidence.
  3. Do not disturb any obvious evidence such as blood stains, footprints, or fingerprints.
  4. Secure the room or area and do not allow anyone to enter until police personnel have arrived.
  5. If there has been any physical contact between the victim and the suspect, do not disturb or wash that area.  This will allow police forensic personnel to determine the areas of evidence that need to be processed.
  6. If there is evidence to preserve, but for some reason must be moved, use a clean brown paper bag or a clean envelope when possible.